Skip to main content

Full text of "The life of Sir Walter Scott"

See other formats


0mmll ^nivmii^ pibatg 

BOUGHT WITH THE INCOME 
FROM THE 

SAGE ENDOWMENT FUND 

THE GIFT OF 

M^nvQ m. Sage 
1S91 



.Am.M^. imAi 



5474 



1.^ 


Date Due 


■*«*. 


Hli^-^^ 4 




i 


^l^i -^5 


*■'" 






7> 2tj "4'^ 






•MJ ?3 1 


Hd 


\, 








;■' 
















* 




























































































m> 











c^l 



Cornell University 
Library 



The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924064991619 



This Edinburgh Edition consists of 

one thousand and forty copies all 

numbered 



No.. 



^3^ 



THE LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 




LADY SCOTT WHEN MISS CARPENTER. 

FROM A MINIATUHE AT ABBOTSFOHD. 



THE LIFE OF 

SIR WALTER SCOTT 



BY 



JOHN GIBSON LOCKHART 



VOLUME II 




EDINBURGH 

PRINTED BY T. AND A. CONSTABLE 

FOR T. C. AND E. C. JACK 

CAUSEWAYSIDE 

ld02 



KvHU 



'•-V-C-' 



CONTENTS OF VOLUME II 



CHAPTER IX. 1798-1799 

Early Married Life : Lasswade Cottage : Monk Lewis : 
Translation of Goetz von Berlichingen, published : 
Visit to London: House of Aspen: Death of 
Scott's Father: First Original Ballad*: Glenfinlas, 
etc. : Metrical Fragments : Appointment to the 
Sheriffship of Selkirkshire 



CHAPTER X. 1800-1802 

The Border Minstrelsy in Preparation : Richard Heber : 
John Leyden : William Laidlaw : James Hogg : 
Correspondence with George Ellis: Publication 
of the Two First Volumes of the Border Minstrelsy 41 



CHAPTER XI. 1802-1803 

Preparation of Volume III. of the Minstrelsy : and of 
Sir Tristrem : Correspondence with Miss Seward 
and Mr. Ellis : Ballad of the Reiver's Wedding : 
Commencement of the Lay of the Last Minstrel : 
Visit to London and Oxford : Completion of the 
Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border . . 76 

V 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER XII. 1803-1804 

FAGI 

Contributions to the Edinburgh Review : Progress of 
the Tristrem : and of the Lay of the Last Minstrel : 
Visit of Wordsworth : Publication of 'Sir Tristrem " 116 



CHAPTER XIII. 1804-1805 

Removal to Ashestiel : Death of Captain Robert Scott : 
Mungo Park : Completion and Publication of the 
Lay of the Last Minstrel 156 

CHAPTER XIV. 1805 

Partnership with James Ballantyne: Literary Projects: 
Edition of the British Poets: Edition of the 
Ancient English Chronicles, etc. etc : Edition of 
Dryden undertaken: Earl Moira Commander of 
the Forces in Scotland: Sham Battles: Articles 
in the Edinburgh Review : Commencement of 
Waverley : Letter on Ossian : Mr. Skene's Remi- 
niscences of Ashestiel : Excursion to Cumberland : 
Alarm of Invasion : Visit of Mr. Southey : Corre- 
spondence on Dryden with Ellis and Wordsworth' 197 

CHAPTER XV. 1806 

Aftair of the Clerkship of Session : Letters to Ellis and 
Lord Dalkeith: Visit to London: Earl Spencer 
and Mr. Fox : Caroline, Princess of Wales : Joanna 
Baillie : Appointment as Clerk of Session : Lord 
Melville's Trial : Song on his Acquittal . 251 



VI 



LIST OF PLATES IN VOLUME II 

LADY SCOTT, .... Frontispiece i/ 

Painter : unknown. 

Date: about 1797. 

Size : 2J x If ins. ; water-colour. 

In the possession of the Hon. Mrs. Maxwell Scott^ Abbots- 
ford. 

This miniature of Charlotte Mary Carpenter, daughter of 
Jean Charpentier, a French refugee, was painted before her 
marriage to Walter Scott in 1797. It lies in a case in the 
Library at Abbotsford, beside the miniature of Sir Walter 
in yeomanry uniform, which he sent to her a few weeks 
before their wedding. 

LASSWADE COTTAGE (seep. 6), . To face page 16 L' 

Painter : unknown. 

Date : about 1870. 

Size : 12f x 8^ ins. ; water-colour : sepia. 

In the possession of the Hon. The Board of Manufactures : 
Watson Bequest. 

The drawing from which this plate is reproduced, was 
made on the spot about 1870, some ten years before the 
cottage was converted into a villa, by the building of con- 
siderable additions, and represents the house practically as it 
was in Scott's time. It is but fair to add that the additions 
were made with taste, the original building, especially the 
very characteristic thatched projection, being tampered with 
as little as possible. 

THOMAS SCOTT, Sir Walter's Uncle {see vol i. p. g6). 

To face page 48^' 
Painter : unknown. 
Size : 30 x 26 ins. 

In the possession of the Hon. Mrs. Maxwell Scott, Abbots- 
ford. 

vii 



LIST OF PLATES 

ROBERT SHORTREED {seep. 36), . To face page 80 
From a silhouette in the Watson Collection. 
Robert Shortreed^ Sheriff-Substitute of Roxburghshire^ 
was Scott's guide during his first excursion into Liddesdale 
(1792), and his companion in many subsequent 'raids.' 

JOHN CLERK OF ELDIN, F.R.S. {see vol. \.p. 165), 

Tofacepage 112 

Painter : James Saxon {d. 1817). 

Date: 1806. 

Size: 49^x39} ins. 

Lent by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to the 
Scottish National Portrait Gallery. 

Presented by Mr. W. H. Carpenter, whose father pur- 
chased it from the artist and ' employed (William Y) Anderson 
to paint the distance in which brealsing the line is intro- 
duced.' 

Father of William Clerk, Scott's great friend, and of John 
Clerk, Lord Eldin, he (1728-1812) is known principally for 
his discovery of a new evolution in naval tactics. 

PROFESSOR DUGALD STEWART {see vol. i.p. 142), 

To face page 144 

Painter: Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. (1766-1823). 

Date : about 1808. 

Size : 30 x 26 ins. 

In the possession of Mr. Fraser Tytler of Aldourie. 

Bom in 1763, and educated at Edinburgh High School and 
Glasgow University, he became Professor of Moral Philosophy 
at Edinburgh in 1785, and exercised a great influence upon 
his younger contemporaries. He died in 1828. 

The portrait reproduced was painted for Lord Woodhouselee. 

ROBERT MACQUEEN, LORD BRAXFIELD 

{see vol. \. p. 20?.), . . . Tofacepage 176 

Painter: Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. (1766-1823). 

Date : about 1790. 

Size : 36 x 26^ ins. 

In the possession of the Faculty of Advocates. 

Scott's thesis, ' Concerning the Disposal of the Dead Bodies 
of Criminals,' written on the occasion of his admission as 
advocate, was dedicated to the celebrated hanging judge. 
Lord Braxfield (1722-1799). 

viii 



LIST OF PLATES 

REV. JOHN HOME {see vol. i. p. 23), . To face page 208 

Painter: Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. (1756-1823). 

Size : 29 x 24 ins. 

In the National Portrait Gallery. 

John Home (1722-1808) was a minister of the Church of 
Scotland, but, the production (1766) of his tragedy The Douglag 
having given dire offence, he resigned his parish. Thereafter 
he was secretary to Lord Bute and tutor to the Prince of 
Wales (afterwards George ni.). He wrote several other plays, 
none of which was so successful as the first. 

MUNGO PARK (seep. 166), . . To face page 240 

Painter : unknown, after Henry Edridge, A.R.A. (1769- 
1821). 

Date of original : before 1799. 

Size : 3J- x 2^ ins. ; water-colour. 

In the National Portrait Gallery. 

Mungo Park (1771-1806), the African traveller, was born 
at Fowlshiels, near Selkirk, and was killed on the Niger 
during his second journey in Africa. 

MATTHEW GREGORY LEWIS {seep. 7), 

To face page 272 

Painter: H. W. PickersgiU, R.A. (1782-1876). 

Date : before 1809. 

Size: 29i5<24jins. 

In the National Portrait Gallery. 

' Monk ' Lewis (1775-1818), as he was commonly called 
from his most famous romance, wrote verses, novels, and 
plays, and collected The Tales of Wonder (1801), to which 
Scott was a contributor. For some time he represented 
Hindon in the House of Commons. 



IX 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

CHAPTER IX 

Early Married Life: Lasswade Cottage: Monk 
Lewis : Translation of Goetz von Berlichingen, 
published : Visit to London : House of Aspen : 
Death of ScoWs Father : First Original Ballads : 
Glenfinlas, etc. : Metrical Fragments: Appoint- 
ment to the Sheriffship of Selkirkshire. 

1798-1799 

Scott carried his bride to a lodging in George 
Street, Edinburgh ; a house which he had taken in 
South Castle Street not being quite prepared for her 
reception. The first fortnight, to which she had 
looked with such anxiety, was, I believe, more than 
sufficient to convince her husband's family that, how- 
ever rashly he had formed the connexion, she had 
the sterling qualities of a good wife. Notwithstand- 
ing the little leaning to the pomps and vanities of 
the world, which her letters have not concealed, 
she had made up her mind to find her happiness in 
better things; and so long as their circumstances 
continued narrow, no woman could have conformed 
herself to them with more of good feeling and good 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

sense. Some habits, new in the quiet domestic 
circles of Edinburgh citizens, did not escape criti- 
cism; and in particular, I have heard herself, in 
her most prosperous days, laugh heartily at the 
remonstrances of her George Street landlady, when 
it was discovered that the southron lodger chose to 
sit usually, and not on high occasions merely, in 
her drawing-room — on which subject the mother-in- 
law was disposed to take the thrifty old-fashioned 
dame's side. 

I cannot fancy that Lady Scott's manners or 
ideas could ever have amalgamated very well vsdth 
those of her husband's parents ; but the feeble state 
of the old gentleman's health prevented her from 
seeing them constantly ; and without any affecta- 
tion of strict intimacy, they soon were, and always 
continued to be, very good friends. Anne Scott, 
the delicate sister to whom the Ashestiel Memoir 
alludes so tenderly, speedily formed a warm and 
sincere attachment for the stranger ; but death, in 
a short time, carried off that interesting creature, 
who seems to have had much of her brother's im- 
aginative and romantic temperament, without his 
power of controlling it. 

Mrs. Scott's arrival was welcomed with unmingled 
delight by the brothers of the Mountain. The two 
ladies, who had formerly given life and grace to 
their society, were both recently married. We have 
seen Miss Erskine's letter of farewell ; and I have 
before me another not less affectionate, written 
when Miss Cranstoun gave her hand (a few months 
later) to Godfrey Wenceslaus, Count of Purg- 



EDINBURGH— 1798 

stall, a nobleman of large possessions in Styria, 
who had been spending some time in Edinburgh. 
Scott's house in South Castle Street — (soon after 
exchanged for one of the same sort in North 
Castle Street, which he purchased, and inhabited 
down to 1826) — became now to the Mountain what 
Cranstoun's and Erskine's had been while their 
accomplished sisters remained with them. The 
officers of the Light Horse, too, established a club 
among themselves, supping once a-week at each 
other's houses in rotation. . The young lady thus 
found two somewhat different, but both highly 
agreeable circles ready to receive her with cordial 
kindness ; and the evening hours passed in a round 
of innocent gaiety, all the arrangements being 
conducted in a simple and inexpensive fashion, 
suitable to young people whose days were mostly 
laborious, and very few of their purses heavy. 
Scott and Erskine had always been fond of the 
theatre ; the pretty bride was passionately so — 
and I doubt if they ever spent a week in Edin- 
burgh without indulging themselves in this amuse- 
ment. But regular dinners and crowded assemblies 
were in those years quite unthought of. Perhaps 
nowhere could have been found a society on so 
small a scale including more of vigorous intellect, 
varied information, elegant tastes, and real virtue, 
affection, and mutual confidence. How often 
have I heard its members, in the midst of the 
wealth and honours which most of them in due 
season attained, sigh over the recollection of those 
humbler days, when love and ambition were young 

3 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and buoyant — and no difference of opinion was able 
to bring even a momentary chill over the warmth 
of friendship. 

' You will imagine,' writes the Countess Purgstall 
to Scott, from one of her Styrian castles, ' how my 
heart burnt within me, my dear, dear friend, while I 
read your thrice welcome letter. Had all the gods 
and goddesses, from Saturn to La Liberty, laid their 
heads together, they could not have presented me 
with any thing that so accorded with my fondest 
wishes. To have a conviction that those I love 
are happy, and don't forget me — I have no way 
to express my feelings — they come in a flood and 
destroy me. Could my George but light on another 
Charlotte, there would be but one crook left in my 
lot * — ^to wit, that Reggersburg does not serve as a 
vista for the Parliament Square, f Would some earth- 
quake engulf the vile tract between, or the spirit of 
our rock introduce me to Jack the Giant- Queller's 
shoemaker ; Lord, Lord, how delightful ! Could I 
choose, I should just for the present patronise the 
shoemaker, and then the moment I got you all snug 
in this old hall, steal the shoes, and lock them away 
till the indignation of the Lord passes by poor Old 

* A long-popular manual of Presbyterian 'llieology is entitled, ' The 
Crook in the Lot' :— the author's name Thomas Boston, Minister of 
Ettrick. 

+ The ancient castle of Reggersburg (if engravings may be trusted, 
one of the most magnificent in Germany) was the chief seat of the 
Purgstalls. In situation and extent it seems to resemble the castle of 
Stirling. The Countess writes thus, about the same time, to another 
of the Mountain :—' As for Scott and his sweet little wife, I consider 
them as a sort of papa and mamma to you all, and am happy the gods 
have ordered it so.' 



EDINBURGH— 1798 

England ! Earl Walter would play the devil with 
me, but his Charlotte's smiles would speak thanks 
ineffable, and the angry clouds pass as before the 
sun in his strength. How divinely your spectre 
scenes would come in here! Surely there is no 
vanity in saying that earth has no mountains like 
ours. O, how delightful to see the lady that is 
blessed with Earl Walter's love, and that had mind 
enough to discover the blessing. Some kind post, I 
hope, will soon tell me that your happiness is en- 
larged, in the only way it can be enlarged, for you 
have no chance now I think of taking Buonaparte 
prisoner. What sort of a genius will he be, is a very 
anxious speculation indeed ; whether the philosopher, 
the lawyer, the antiquary, the poet, or the hero will 
prevail — the spirit whispers unto me a happy melange 
of the two last — he will lisp in numbers, and kick at 
la Nourrice. On his arrival, present my fondest 
wishes to his honour, and don't, pray, give him a 
name out of your list of round-table knights, but 
some simple Christian appellation from the House 
of Harden. And is it then true, my God, that Earl 
Walter is a Benedick, and that I am in Styxia? 
Well, bless us all, prays the separated from her 
brethren, J- A. P.' 

' Hainfeld, July 20, 1798.' 

Another extract from the Family Bible may close 
this letter—' M. C. Scott puerum edidit lUo die Octo- 
bris 1798, qui postero die ohiit apud Edinburgum.' 

In the summer of this year Scott had hired a 

5 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

pretty cottage at Lasswade, on the Esk, about six 
miles from Edinburgh, and there, as the back of 
Madame de P.'s letter shows, he received it from the 
hands of Professor Stewart. It is a small house, but 
with one room of good dimensions, which Mrs. Scott's 
taste set off to advantage at very humble cost — a 
paddock or two — and a garden (commanding a most 
beautiful view) in which Scott dehghted to train his 
flowers and creepers. Never, I have heard him say, 
was he prouder of his handiwork than when he had 
completed the fashioning of a rustic archway, now 
overgrown with hoary ivy, by way of ornament to 
the entrance from the Edinburgh road. In this re- 
treat they spent some happy summers, receiving the 
visits of their few chosen friends from the neighbour- 
ing city, and wandering at will amidst some of the 
most romantic scenery that Scotland can boast — 
Scott's dearest haunt in the days of his boyish ram- 
blings. They had neighbours, too, who were not slow 
to cultivate their acquaintance. With the Clerks of 
Pennycuick, with Mackenzie the Man of Feeling, 
who then occupied the charming villa of Auchen- 
dinny, and with Lord Woodhouselee, Scott had 
from an earlier date been familiar ; and it was while 
at Lasswade that he formed intimacies, even more 
important in their results, with the noble families of 
Melville and Buccleuch, both of whom have castles 
in the same valley. 

' Sweet are the paths, O passing sweet. 
By Esk's fair streams that run. 
O'er airy steep, thro' copsewood deep 
Impervious to the sun : 



LASSWADE— 1798 

From that fair dome wliere suit is paid 

By blast of bugle free,* 
To Auchendinny's hazel shade, 

And haunted Woodhouselee. 

Who knows not Melville's beechy grove, 

And Roslin's rocky glen j 
Dalkeith, which all the virtues love, 

And classic Hawthornden ? ' 

Another verse reminds us that 

' There the rapt poet's step may rove ' ; — 

and it was amidst these delicious solitudes that he 
did produce the pieces which laid the imperishable 
foundations of all his fame. It was here, that when 
his warm heart was beating with young and happy 
love, and his whole mind and spirit were nerved by 
new motives for exertion ; it was here, that in the 
ripened glow of manhood he seems to have first felt 
something of his real strength, and poured himself 
out in those splendid original ballads which were at 
once to fix his name. 

I must, however, approach these more leisurely. 
When William Erskine was in London in the spring 
of this year, he happened to meet in society with 
Matthew Gregory Lewis, M.P. for Hindon, whose 
romance of The Monk, with the ballads which it 
included, had made for him, in those barren days, a 
brilliant reputation. This good-natured fopling, the 
pet and plaything of certain fashionable circles, was 
then busy with that miscellany which at length came 
out in 1801, under the name of Tales of Wonder, 



* Pennycuick. 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and was beating up in all quarters for contributions. 
Erskine showed Lewis, Scott's versions of Lenore 
and the Wild Huntsman ; and when he mentioned 
that his friend had other specimens of the German 
diablerie in his portfolio, the collector anxiously re- 
quested that Scott might be enlisted in his cause. 
The brushwood splendour of ' The Monk's ' fame, 

' The false and foolish fire that s whiskt about 
By popular air, and glares, and then goes out,' * 

had a dazzling influence among the unknown aspi- 
rants of Edinburgh; and Scott, who was perhaps 
at all times rather disposed to hold popular favour 
as the surest test of literary merit, and who certainly 
continued through life to over-estimate all talents 
except his own, considered this invitation as a very 
flattering compUment. He immediately wrote to 
Lewis, placing whatever pieces he had translated and 
imitated from the German VolksUeder at his dis- 
posal. The following is the first of Lewis's letters 
to him that has been preserved — it is without date, 
but marked by Scott ' 1798.' 

* To Walter Scott, Esq., Advocate, Edinburgh. 
'Sir, 

' I cannot delay expressing to you how much I 
feel obliged to you, both for the permission to pub- 
lish the ballads I requested, and for the handsome 
manner in which that permission was granted. The 
plan I have proposed to myself, is to collect all the 

* Oldham, 
8 



'MONK LEWIS'— 1798 

marvellous ballads which I can lay hands upon. 
Ancient as well as modern will be comprised in 
my design; and I shall even allow a place to Sir 
Gawaine's Foul Ladye, and the Ghost that came 
to Margaret's door and tirled at the pin. But as a 
ghost or a witch is a sine-qua-non ingredient in all 
the dishes of which I mean to compose my hob- 
goblin repast, I am afraid the " Lied von Treue " 
does not come within the plan. With regard to 
the romance in Claudina von Villa Bells^, if I am not 
mistaken, it is only a fragment in the original ; but, 
should you have finished it, you will oblige me 
much by letting me have a copy of it, as well as of 
the other marvellous traditionary ballads you were 
so good as to offer me. 

' Should you be in Edinburgh when I arrive there, 
I shall request Erskine to contrive an opportunity 
for my returning my personal thanks. Meanwhile, 
I beg you to believe me your most obedient and 
obliged M. G. Lewis.' 

When Lewis reached Edinburgh, he met Scott 
accordingly, and the latter told Allan Cunningham, 
thirty years afterwards, that he thought he had never 
felt such elation as when the ' Monk ' invited him 
to dine with him for the first time at his hotel. 
Since he gazed on Burns in his seventeenth year, 
he had seen no one enjoying, by general consent, the 
fame of a poet ; and Lewis, whatever Scott might, 
on maturer consideration, think of his title to such 
fame, had certainly done him no small service ; for 
the ballads of 'Alonzo the Brave and the Fair 

9 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Imogine,'and 'Durandarte,' had rekindled effectually 
in his breast the spark of poetical ambition. Lady- 
Charlotte Campbell (now Bury), always distinguished 
by her passion for elegant letters, was ready, ' in pride 
of rank, in beauty's bloom,' to do the honours of 
Scotland to the ' Lion of Mayfair ' ; and I believe 
Scott's first introduction to Lewis took place at one 
of her Ladyship's parties. But they met frequently, 
and, among other places, at Dalkeith — as witness one 
of Scott's marginal notes, written in 1825, on Lord 
Byron's Diary : — ' Poor fellow,' says Byron, ' he died 
a martyr to his new riches — of a second visit to 
Jamaica. 

" I 'd give the lands of Deloraine 
Dark Musgrave were alive again " ; 



that is, 



" I would give many a sugar-cane 
Monk Lewis were alive again." ' 



rr 



To which Scott adds : — ' I would pay my share ! 
how few friends one has whose faults are only ridi- 
culous. His visit was one of humanity to amelio- 
rate the condition of his slaves. He did much good 
by stealth, and was a most generous creature. . . . 
Lewis was fonder of great people than he ought to 
have been, either as a man of talent or as a man of 
fashion. He had always dukes and duchesses in his 
mouth, and was pathetically fond of any one that 
had a title. You would have sworn he had been a 
parvenu of yesterday, yet he had lived all his life 
in good society. . . . Mat had queerish eyes — ^they 
projected like those of some insects, and were flattish 
on the orbit. His person was extremely small and 

lO 



'MONK LEWIS'— 1798 

boyish — he was indeed the least man I ever saw, 
to be strictly well and neatly made. I remember a 
picture of him by Saunders being handed round at 
Dalkeith House. The artist had ingeniously flung 
a dark folding-mantle around the form, under which 
was half-hid a dagger, a dark lantern, or some such 
cut- throat appurtenance; with all this the features 
were preserved and ennobled. It passed from hand 
to hand into that of Henry, Duke of Buccleuch, 
who, hearing the general voice affirm that it was 
very like, said aloud, " Like Mat Lewis ! Why that 
picture 's like a Man ! " He looked, and lo ! Mat 
Lewis's head was at his elbow. This boyishness 
went through life with him. He was a child, and a 
spoiled child, but a child of high imagination ; and 
so he wasted himself on ghost-stories and German 
romances. He had the finest ear for rhythm I ever 
met with — ^finer than Byron's.' 

During Lewis's stay in Scotland this year, he spent 
a day or two with Scott at Musselburgh, where the 
yeomanry corps were in quarters. Scott received 
him in his lodgings, under the roof of an ancient 
dame, who afforded him much amusement by her 
daily colloquies with the fishwomen — the Muckle- 
backets of the place. His delight in studying the 
dialect of these people is well remembered by the 
survivors of the cavalry, and must have astonished 
the stranger dandy. While walking about before 
dinner on one of these days, Mr. Skene's recitation 
of the German Kriegslied, ' Der Abschied's Tag ist 
da ' (the day of departure is come), delighted both 
Lewis and the Quarter - Master ; and the latter 

II 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

produced next morning that spirited little piece in 
the same measure, which, embodying the volunteer 
ardour of the time, was forthwith adopted as the 
troop-song of the Edinburgh Light Horse.* 

In January 1799, Mr. Lewis appears negotiating 
with a bookseller, named Bell, for the publication of 
Scott's version of Goethe's Tragedy, 'Goetz von 
Berlichingen of the Iron Hand.' Bell seems finally 
to have purchased the copyright for twenty -five 
guineas, and twenty-five more to be paid in case of 
a second edition — which was never called for until 
long after the copyright had expired. Lewis writes, 
' I have made him distinctly understand, that, if you 
accept so small a sum, it will be only because this is 
your first publication.' The edition of ' Lenore ' and 
the ' Yager,' in 1796, had been completely forgotten ; 
and Lewis thought of those ballads exactly as if 
they had been MS. contributions to his own Tales 
of Wonder, still lingering on the threshold of the 
press. The Goetz appeared accordingly, with Scott's 
name on the title-page, in the following February. 

In March 1799, he carried his wife to London, 
this being the first time that he had seen the metro- 
polis since the days of his infancy. The acquaintance 
of Lewis ser/ed to introduce him to some literary 
and fashionable society, with which he was much 
amused ; but his great anxiety was to examine the 
antiquities of the Tower and Westminster Abbey, 
and to make some researches among the MSS. of 
the British Museum. He found his Goetz spoken 

* See Poetical Works (Edition 1833)^ vol. iv. p. 230. 
12 



GOETZ OF BERLICHINGEN— 1799 

of favourably, on the whole, by the critics of the 
time ; but it does not appear to have attracted 
general attention. The truth is, that, to have given 
Goethe any thing like a fair chance with the English 
public, his first drama ought to have been translated 
at least ten years before. The imitators had been 
more fortunate than the master, and this work, which 
constitutes one of the most important landmarks in 
the history of German literature, had not come even 
into Scott's hands, until he had familiarized himself 
with the ideas which it first opened, in the feeble and 
puny mimicries of writers already forgotten. He 
readily discovered the vast gulf which separated 
Goethe from the German dramatists on whom he 
had heretofore been employing himself; but the 
public in general drew no such distinctions, and the 
English Goetz was soon afterwards condemned to 
oblivion, through the unsparing ridicule showered on 
whatever bore the name of German play, by the 
inimitable caricature of The Rovers. 

The tragedy of Goethe, however, has in truth 
nothing in common with the wild absurdities against 
which Canning and Ellis levelled the arrows of their 
wit. It is a broad, bold, free, and most picturesque 
delineation of real characters, manners, and events ; 
the first fruits, in a word, of that passionate admira- 
tion for Shakspeare, to which all that is excellent in 
the recent imaginative literature of Germany must 
be traced. With what delight must Scott have 
found the scope and manner of our Elizabethan 
drama revived on a foreign stage at the call of a real 
master ! with what double delight must he have seen 

13 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Goethe seizing for the noblest purposes of art, men 
and modes of life, scenes, incidents, and transactions, 
all claiming near kindred with those that had from 
boyhood formed the chosen theme of his own sym- 
pathy and reflection ! In the baronial robbers of 
the Rhine, stern, bloody, and rapacious, but frank, 
generous, and, after their fashion, courteous — in 
their forays upon each other's domains, the besieged 
castles, the plundered herds, the captive knights, the 
browbeaten bishop, and the baffled liege-lord, who 
vainly strove to quell all these turbulences — Scott 
had before him a vivid image of the life of his own 
and the rival Border clans, familiarized to him by 
a hundred nameless minstrels. If it be doubtful 
whether, but for Percy's Reliques, he would ever 
have thought of editing their Ballads, I think it not 
less so, whether, but for the Ironhanded Goetz, it 
would ever have flashed upon his mind, that in the 
wild traditions which these recorded, he had been 
unconsciously assembling materials for more works 
of high art than the longest life could serve him 
to elaborate. 

As the version of the Goetz has at length been 
included in Scott's poetical works, I need not make 
it the subject of more detailed observation here. The 
reader who turns to it for the first time will be no 
less struck than I was under similar circumstances a 
dozen years ago, with the many points of resemblance 
between the tone and spirit of Goethe's delineation, 
and that afterwards adopted by the translator in 
some of the most remarkable of his original works. 
One example, however, may be forgiven : — 
14 



GOETZ OF BERLICHINGEN— 1799 

'A loud alarm, with shouts and firing — Selbiss is borne 
in wounded, hy two Troopers. 

Selbiss. Leave me here, and hasten to Goetz. 

1st Trooper. Let us stay — you need our aid. 

Sel. Get one of you on the watch-tower, and tell me how it goes. 

Isl Troop. How shall I get up ? 

2d Troop. Get upon my shoulder; you can then reach the 
ruined part. 

1st Troop. (On the tower.) Alas! alas! 

Sel. What seest thou .'' 

Troop. Your cavaliers fly to the hill. 

Sel. Hellish cowards ! I would that they stood, and that I had a 
ball through my head ! Ride one of you at full speed — Curse and 
thunder them back to the field ! See'st thou Goetz .'' 

Troop. I see the three black feathers in the midst of the tumult. 

Sel. Swim, brave swimmer — I lie here. 

Troop. A white plume ! Whose is that ? 

Sel. The Captain. 

Troop. Goetz gallops upon him — Crash — down he goes. 

Sel. The Captain ? 

Troop. Yes. 

Sel. Bravo ! — bravo ! 

Troop. Alas ! alas ! I see Goetz no more. 

Sel. Then die, Selbiss ! 

Troop. A dreadful tumult where he stood. George's blue plume 
vanishes too. 

Sel. Climb higher — See'st thou Lerse ? 

Troop. No — every thing is in confusion. 

Sel. No further — come down — -tell me no more. 

Troop. I cannot — Bravo ! I see Goetz. 

Sel. On horseback ? 

Troop. A-Y, ay — high on horseback — victory ! — they fly ! 

Sel. The Imperialists .' 

Troop. Standard and all — Goetz behind them — he has it — he 
has it ! ' 

The first hint of this (as of what not in poetry ?) 
may be found in the Iliad — where Helen points out 

15 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the persons of the Greek heroes, to old Priam seated 
on the walls of Troy ; and Shakspeare makes some 
use of the same idea in his Julius Ceesar. But who 
does not recognise in Goethe's drama the true 
original of the death-scene of Marmion, and the 
storm in Ivanhoe ? 

Scott executed about the same time his 'House 
of Aspen,' rather a rifadmento than a translation 
from one of the minor dramatists that had crowded 
to partake the popularity of Goetz of the Ironhand. 
It also was sent to Lewis in London, where having 
first been read and much recommended by the 
celebrated actress, Mrs. Esten, it was taken up by 
Kemble, and I believe actually put in rehearsal for 
the stage. If so, the trial did not encourage further 
preparation, and the notion was abandoned. Dis- 
covering the play thirty years after among his papers, 
Scott sent it to one of the literary almanacks (the 
Keepsake of 1829). In the advertisement he says, 
'he had lately chanced to look over these scenes 
with feelings very different from those of the adven- 
turous period of his literary life during which they 
were written, and yet with such, perhaps, as a 
reformed libertine might regard the illegitimate pro- 
duction of an early amour.' He adds, 'there is 
something to be ashamed of, certainly; but after 
all, paternal vanity whispers that the child has some 
resemblance to the father.' This piece being also 
now included in the general edition of his works, 
I shall not dwell upon it here. It owes its most 
effective scenes to the Secret Tribunal, which foun- 
tain of terror had first been disclosed by Goethe, 
i6 




W g 
en g 



HOUSE OF ASPEN— 1799 

and had by this time lost much of its effect through 
the ' clumsy alacrity ' of a hundred followers. Scott's 
scenes are interspersed with some lyrics, the numbers 
of which, at least, are worthy of attention. One has 
the metre — and not a little of the spirit, of the boat- 
song of Roderick Dhu and Clan Alpin : — 

' Joy to the victors, the sons of old Aspen, 
Joy to the race of the battle and scar ! 
Glory's proud garland triumphantly grasping. 
Generous in peace, and victorious in war. 

Honour acquiring. 

Valour inspiring. 
Bursting resistless through foemen they go. 

War axes wielding. 

Broken ranks yielding, 
Till from the battle proud Roderick retiring. 
Yields in wild rout the fair palm to his foe.' 

Another is the first draft of ' the Maid of Toro ' ; 
and perhaps he had forgotten the more perfect copy 
of that song, when he sent the original to the 
Keepsake. 

I incline to believe that the House of Aspen was 
written after Scott's return from London ; but it 
has been mentioned in the same page with the Goetz, 
to avoid any recurrence to either the German or the 
Germanized dramas. His return was accelerated by 
the domestic calamity which forms the subject of the 
following letter : — 

' 2o Mrs. Scott, George's Square, Edinburgh. 

'London, 19th April 1799. 

' My Dear Mother, 

' I cannot express the feelings with which I sit 

2— B 17 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

down to the discharge of my present melancholy 
duty, nor how much I regret the accident which 
has removed me from Edinburgh, at a time, of all 
others, when I should have wished to administer to 
your distress all the consolation which sympathy 
and affection could have afforded. Your own prin- 
ciples of virtue and religion will, however, I well 
know, be your best support in this heaviest of 
human afflictions. The removal of my regretted 
parent from this earthly scene, is to him, doubtless, 
the happiest change, if the firmest integrity and the 
best spent life can entitle us to judge of the state of 
oiu" departed friends. When we reflect upon this 
we ought almost to suppress the selfish feelings of 
regret that he was not spared to us a little longer, 
especially when we consider that it was not the will 
of Heaven that he should share the most inestimable 
of its earthly blessings, such a portion of health as 
might have enabled him to enjoy his family. To 
my dear father, then, the putting off" this mortal 
mask was happiness, and to us who remain, a lesson 
so to live that we also may have hope in our latter 
end; and with you, my dearest Mother, remain 
many blessings and some duties, a grateful recol- 
lection of which will, I am sure, contribute to calm 
the current of your affliction. The affection and 
attention which you have a right to expect from 
your children, and which I consider as the best 
tribute we can pay to the memory of the parent 
we have lost, will also, I am sure, contribute its 
full share to the alleviation of your distress. The 
situation of Charlotte's health, in its present delicate 
i8 



DEATH OF HIS FATHER— 1799 

state, prevented me from setting ofF directly for 
Scotland, when I heard that immediate danger was 
apprehended. I am now glad I did not do so, as I 
could not with the utmost expedition have reached 
Edinburgh before the lamented event had taken 
place. The situation of my affairs must detain me 
.here for a few days more ; the instant I can I will 
set off for Scotland. I need not tell you not even 
to attempt to answer this letter — such an exertion 
would be both unnecessary and improper. John 
or Tom will let me know how my sister and you 
do. I am, ever, dear Mother, your dutiful and 
affectionate son, W. S.' 

' P.S. — Permit me, my dear Madam, to add a line 
to Scott's letter, to express to you how sincerely 
I feel for your loss, and how much T regret that I 
am not near you to try by the most tender care to 
soften the pain that so great a misfortune must inflict 
on you and on all those who had the happiness of 
being connected with him. I hope soon to have the 
pleasure of returning to you, and to convince you of 
the sincere affection of your daughter, 

M. C. S.' 

The death of this worthy man, in his 70th year, 
after a long series of feeble health and suffering, was 
an event which could only be regarded as a great 
deliverance to himself. He had had a succession of 
paralytic attacks, under which, mind as well as body 
had by degrees been laid quite prostrate. When the 
first Chronicles of the Canongate appeared, a near 

19 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

relation of the family said to me — ' I had been out 
of Scotland for some time, and did not know of my 
good friend's illness, until I reached Edinburgh, a 
few months before his death. Walter carried me to 
visit him, and warned me that I should see a great 
change. I saw the very scene that is here painted 
of the elder Croftangry's sickroom — not a feature 
different — ^poor Anne Scott, the gentlest of creatures, 
was treated by the fretful patient precisely like this 
niece, '^^ 

I have lived to see the curtain rise and fall once 
more on a like scene. 

Mr. Thomas Scott continued to manage his father's 
business. He married early ; f he was in his circle of 
society extremely popular ; and his prospects seemed 
fair in all things. The property left by the old 
gentleman was less than had been expected, but 
sufficient to make ample provision for his widow, 
and a not inconsiderable addition to the resources of 
those among whom the remainder was divided. 

Scott's mother and sister, both much exhausted 
with their attendance on a protracted sickbed, and 
the latter already in the first stage of the malady 
which in two years more carried her also to her 
grave, spent the greater part of the following summer 
and autumn in his cottage at Lasswade. 

There he was now again labouring assiduously in 



* See The Highland Widow, vol. xli. chap. i. 

t [Mrs. Thomas Scott, born Miss MacCulloch of Ardwell, was one of 

the best, and wisest, and most agreeable women I have ever known. She 

had a motherly affection for all Sir Walter's family — and she survived 

them all. She died at Canterbury in April 1848, aged 72.] — Ahr. Ed. 1848. 

20 



FIRST ORIGINAL BALLADS— 1799 

the service of Lewis's 'hobgoblin repast,' and the 
specimens of his friend's letters on his contributions, 
as they were successively forwarded to London, 
which were printed by way of appendix to the 
Essay on Imitations of the Ancient Ballad, in 1830,* 
may perhaps be sufficient for the reader's curiosity. 
The versions from Biirger were, in consequence of 
Lewis's remarks, somewhat corrected; and, indeed, 
although Scott speaks of himself as having paid 
no attention 'at the time,'' to the lectures of his 
' martinet in rhymes and numbers ' — * lectures which 
were,' he adds, 'severe enough, but useful eventu- 
ally, as forcing on a young and careless versifier 
criticisms absolutely necessary to his future success ' 
— it is certain that his memory had in some degree 
deceived him when he used this language, for, of all 
the false rhymes and Scotticisms which Lewis had 
pointed out in these 'lectures,' hardly one appears 
in the printed copies of the ballads contributed by 
Scott to the Tales of Wonder. 

As to his imperfect rhymes of this period, I have 
no doubt he owed them to his recent zeal about 
collecting the ballads of the Border. He had, in 
his familiarity with compositions so remarkable for 
merits of a higher order, ceased to be offended, as in 
the days of his devotion to Langhorne and Meikle 
he would probably have been, with their loose and 
vague assonances, which are often, in fact, not 
rhymes at all ; a license pardonable enough in real 
minstrelsy, meant to be chanted to moss-troopers 



* See Minstrelsy, vol. iv. p. 79. 

21 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

with the accompanying tones of the war-pipe, but 
certainly not worthy of imitation in verses written 
for the eye of a polished age. Of this carelessness 
as to rhyme, we see little or nothing in our few 
specimens of his boyish verse, and it does not occur, 
to any extent that has ever been thought worth 
notice, in his great works. 

But Lewis's collection did not engross the leisure 
of this summer. It produced also what Scott justly 
calls his 'first serious attempts in verse'; and of 
these the earliest appears to have been the Glen- 
finlas. Here the scene is laid in the most favourite 
district of his favourite Perthshire Highlands ; and 
the Gaelic tradition on which it is founded was far 
more likely to draw out the secret strength of his 
genius, as well as to arrest the feelings of his country- 
men, than any subject with which the stores of 

■ German diablerie could have supplied him. It has 
been alleged, however, that the poet makes a German 

; use of his Scottish materials ; that the legend, as 

|; briefly told in the simple prose of his preface, is 
more affecting than the lofty and sonorous stanzas 
themselves; that the vague terror of the original 
dream loses, instead of gaining, by the expanded 

s elaboration of the detail. There may be something 
in these objections : but no man can pretend to be 
an impartial critic of the piece which first awoke 
his own childish ear to the power of poetry and the 
melody of verse. 

The next of these compositions was, I believe, the 
Eve of St. John, in which Scott repeoples the tower 
of Smailholm, the awe-inspiring haunt of his infancy ; 

22 



EVE OF ST. JOHN, ETC.— 1799 

and here he touches, for the first time, the one super- 
stition which can still be appealed to with full and 
perfect effect ; the only one which lingers in minds 
long since weaned from all sympathy with the 
machinery of witches and goblins. And surely this 
mystery was never touched with more thrilling skill 
than in that noble ballad. It is the first of his 
original pieces, too, in which he uses the measure 
of his own favourite Minstrels ; a measure which 
the monotony of mediocrity had long and success- 
fully been labouring to degrade, but in itself adequate 
to the expression of the highest thoughts, as well as 
the gentlest emotions ; and capable, in fit hands, of 
as rich a variety of music as any other of modern 
times. This was written at Mertoun-house in the 
autumn of 1799. Some dilapidations had taken 
place in the tower of Smailholm, and Harden, being 
informed of the fact, and entreated with needless 
earnestness by his kinsman to arrest the hand of 
the spoiler, requested playfully a ballad, of which 
Smailholm should be the scene, as the price of his 
assent. The stanza in which the groves of Mertoun 
are alluded to, has been quoted in a preceding page. 

Then came The Grey Brother, founded on another 
superstition, which seems to have been almost as 
ancient as the belief in ghosts; namely, that the 
holiest service of the altar cannot go on in the 
presence of an unclean person — a heinous sinner 
unconfessed and unabsolved. The fragmentary form 
of this poem greatly heightens the awfulness of its 
impression ; and in construction and metre, the verses 
which really belong to the story appear to me the 

23 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

happiest that have ever been produced expressly in 
imitation of the ballad of the middle age. In the 
stanzas, previously quoted, on the scenery of the 
Esk, however beautiful m themselves, and however 
interesting now as marking the locality of the com- 
position, he must be allowed to have lapsed into 
another straui, and produced a pannus purpureus 
which interferes with and mars the general texture. 

He wrote at the same period the fine chivalrous 
ballad entitled The Fire-King, in which there is more 
than enough to make us forgive the machinery. 

It was in the course of this autumn that he first 
visited Bothwell Castle, the seat of Archibald Lord 
Douglas, who had married the Lady Frances $cott, 
sister to Henry, Duke of Buccleueh ; a woman whose 
many amiable virtues were combined with extra- 
ordinary strength of mind, and who had, fi-om the 
first introduction of the young poet at Dalkeith, 
formed high anticipations of his future career. Lady 
Douglas was one of his dearest friends through life ; 
and now, under her roof, he improved an acquaint- 
ance (begun also at Dalkeith) with one whose abilities 
and accomplishments not less qualified her to esti- 
mate him, and who still survives to lament the 
only event that could have interrupted their cordial 
confidence — the Lady Louisa Stuart, daughter of 
the celebrated John Earl of Bute. These ladies, 
who were sisters in mind, feeling, and affection, he 
visited among scenes the noblest and most interesting 
that all Scotland can show — alike famous in history 
and romance ; and he was not unwilling to make 
Bothwell and Blantyre the subject of another ballad. 
24 



BOTHWELL CASTLE— 1799 

His purpose was never completed. I think, however, 
the reader will not complain of my introducing the 
fragment which I have found among his papers. 

' When fruitful Clydesdale's apple-bowers 
Are mellowing in the noon ; 
When sighs round Pembroke's ruin'd towers 
The sultry breath of June ; 

When Clyde, despite his sheltering wood. 

Must leave his channel dry ; 
And vainly o'er the limpid flood 

The angler guides his fly ; 

If chance by Bothwell's lovely braes 

A wanderer thou hast been. 
Or hid thee from the summer's blaze 

In Blantyre's bowers of green, 

Full where the copsewood opens wild 

Thy pilgrim step hath staid, 
Where Bothwell's towers in ruin piled 

O'erlook the verdant glade ; 

And many a tale of love and fear 

Hath mingled with the scene^ 
Of Bothwell's banks that bloom'd so dear 

And Bothwell's bonny Jean. 

O, if with rugged minstrel lays 

Unsated be thy ear. 
And thou of deeds of other days ' 

Another tale wilt hear, 

Then all beneath the spreading beech 

Flung careless on the lea. 
The Gothic muse the tale shall teach 

Of Bothwell's sisters three. 

25 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Wight Wallace stood on Deckmont head, 

He blew his bugle round. 
Till the wild bull in Cadyow wood 

Has started at the sound. 

St. George's cross, o'er Bothwell hung, 

Was waving far and wide. 
And from the lofty turret flung 

Its crimson blaze on Clyde ; 

And rising at the bugle blast 

That marked the Scottish foe. 
Old England's yeomen muster'd fast, 

And bent the Norman bow. 

Tall in the midst Sir Aylmer rose, 

Proud Pembroke's Earl was he — 
While . . .' 

One morning, during his visit to Bothwell, was 
spent on an excursion to the ruins of Craignethan 
Castle, the seat, in former days, of the great Evan- 
dale branch of the house of Hamilton, but now the 
property of Lord Douglas ; and the poet expressed 
such rapture with the scenery, that his hosts urged 
him to accept, for his lifetime, the use of a small 
habitable house, enclosed within the circuit of the 
ancient walls. This offer was not at once declined ; 
but circumstances occurred before the end of the 
year, which rendered it impossible for him to estab- 
lish his summer residence in Lanarkshire. The castle 
of Craignethan is the original of his ' Tillietudlem.'* 



* The name Tillietudlem was no doubt taken from that of the ravine 
under the old castle of Lanark — which town is near Craignethan. This 
ravine is called Gillytudlem. 

26 



THE SHEPHERD'S TALE— 1799 

Another imperfect ballad, in which he had meant 
to blend together two legends familiar to every 
reader of Scottish history and romance, has been 
found in the same portfolio, and the handwriting 
proves it to be of the same early date. Though long 
and very unfinished, it contains so many touches of 
his best manner that I cannot withhold 



THE SHEPHERD'S TALE. 



' And ne'er but oncCj my son/ he says, 

' Was yon sad cavern trod, 
In persecution's iron days. 

When the land was left by God. 

From Bewlie bog, with slaughter red, 

A wanderer hither drew, 
And oft he stopt and turned his head. 

As by fits the night wind blew ; 

For trampling round by Cheviot edge 

Were heard the troopers keen. 
And frequent from the Whitelaw ridge 

The death-shot flashed between. 

The moonbeams through the misty shower 

On yon dark cavern fell ; 
Through the cloudy night the snow gleamed white, 

Which sunbeam ne'er could quell. 

" Yon cavern dark is rough and rude. 

And cold its jaws of snow : 
But more rough and rude are the men of blood. 

That hunt my life below : 

27 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

" Yon spell-bound den, as the aged tell, 

Was hewn by demon's hands ; 
But I had lourd* melle with the fiends of hell 

Than with Clavers and his band." 

He heard the deep-mouthed bloodhound bark, 

He heard the horses neigh. 
He plunged him in the cavern dark, 

And downward sped his way. 

Now faintly down the winding path 
Came the cry of the faulting hound. 

And the muttered oath of baulked wrath 
Was lost in hollow sound. 

He threw him on the flinted floor. 

And held his breath for fear ; 
He rose and bitter cursed his foes. 

As the sounds died on his ear. 

" O bare thine arm, thou battling Lord, 

For Scotland's wandering band ; 
Dash from the oppressor's grasp the sword. 

And sweep him from the land ! 

" Forget not thou thy people's groans 

From dark Dunnottar's tower, 
Mix'd with the seafowl's shrilly moans, 

And ocean's bursting roar ! 

" O in fell Clavers' hour of pride. 

Even in his mightiest day. 
As bold he strides through conquest's tide, 

O stretch him on the clay ! 

" His widow and his little ones, 

O may their tower of trust 
Remove its strong foundation stones, 

And crush them in the dust ! " — 



* Lourd; i.e. liefer — rather. 
28 



THE SHEPHERD'S TALE— 1799 

"Sweet prayers to me," a voice replied. 

" Thrice welcomej guest of mine ! " — 
And glimmering on the cavern side, 

A light was seen to shine. 

An aged man, in amice brown. 

Stood by the wanderer's side. 
By powerful charm, a dead man's arm 

The torch's light supplied. 

From each stiff finger stretched upright. 

Arose a ghastly flame, 
That waved not in the blast of night 

Which through the cavern came. 

O deadly blue was that taper's hue. 

That flamed the cavern o'er, 
But more deadly blue was the ghastly hue 

Of his eyes who the taper bore. 

He laid on his head a hand like lead. 

As heavy, pale, and cold : — 
" Vengeance be thine, thou guest of mine. 

If thy heart be firm and bold. 

" But if faint thy heart, and caitiff fear 

Thy recreant sinews know. 
The mountain erne thy heart shall tear. 

Thy nerves the hooded crow." 

The wanderer raised him undismay'd : 

" My soul, by dangers steeled. 
Is stubborn as my border blade. 

Which never knew to yield. 

" And if thy power can speed the hour 

Of vengeance on my foes. 
Theirs be the fate, from bridge and gate 

To feed the hooded crows." 

29 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

The Brownie looked him in the face, 

And his colour fled with speed — 
"I fear me," quoth he, "uneath it will be 

To match thy word and deed. 

" In ancient days when English bands 

Sore ravaged Scotland fair. 
The sword and shield of Scottish land 

Was valiant Halbert Kerr. 

" A warlock loved the warrior well. 

Sir Michael Scott by name, 
And he sought for his sake a spell to make 

Should the Southern foemau tame : 

" Look thou," he said, " from Cessford head. 

As the July sun sinks low. 
And when gUmmering white on Cheviot's height 

Thou shalt spy a wreath of snow. 
The spell is complete which shall bring to thy feet 

The haughty Saxon foe. 

" For many a year wrought the wizard here. 

In Cheviot's bosom low, 
Till the spell was complete, and in July's heat 

Appeared December's snow ; 
But Cessford's Halbert never came 

The wondrous cause to know. 

" For years before in Bowden aisle 

The warrior's bones had lain, 
And after short while, by female guile. 

Sir Michael Scott was slain. 

" But me and my brethren in this cell 

His mighty charms retain, — 
And he that can quell the powerful spell 

Shall o'er broad Scotland reign." 

30 



THE SHEPHERD'S TALE— 1799 

He led him through an iron door 

And up a winding stair. 
And in wild amaze did the wanderer gaze 

On the sight which opened there. 

Through the gloomy night flashed ruddy light, — 

A thousand torches' glow ; 
The cave rose high, like the vaulted sky, 

O'er stalls in double row. 

In every stall of that endless hall 

Stood a steed in barbing bright ; 
At the foot of each steed, all armed save the head, 

Lay stretched a stalwart knight. 

In each mailed hand was a naked brand ; 

As they lay on the black bull's hide, 
Each visage stern did upwards turn. 

With eyeballs fixed and wide. 

A launcegay strong, full twelve ells long, 

By every warrior hung ; 
At each pommel there, for battle yare, 

A Jedwood axe was slung. 

The casque hung near each cavalier. 

The plumes waved mournfully 
At every tread which the wanderer made 

Through the hall of Gramarye ; 

The ruddy beam of the torches' gleam 
That glared the warriors on, a 

Reflected light from armour bright. 
In noontide splendour shone. 

And onward seen in lustre sheen. 

Still lengthening on the sight. 
Through the boundless hall, stood steeds in stall. 

And by each lay a sable knight. 

31 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Still as the dead lay each horseman dread. 

And moved nor limb nor tongue ; 
Each steed stood stiff as an earthfast cliff, 

Nor hoof nor bridle rung. 

No sounds through all the spacious hall 

The deadly still divide. 
Save where echoes aloof from the vaulted roof 

To the wanderer's step replied. 

At length before his wondering eyes. 

On an iron column borne. 
Of antique shape, and giant size, 

Appear'd a sword and horn. 

" Now choose thee here," quoth his leader, 

" Thy venturous fortune try ; 
Thy wo and weal, thy boot and bale. 

In yon brand and bugle lie.'' 

To the fatal brand he mounted his hand. 

But his soul did quiver and quail ; 
The life-blood did start to his shuddering heart 

And left him wan and pale. 

The brand he forsook, and the horn he took 

To 'say a gentle sound ; 
But so wild a blast from the bugle brast. 

That the Cheviot rock'd around. 

From Forth to Tees, from seas to seas. 

The a^^ful bugle rung ; 
On Carlisle wall, and Berwick withal. 

To arms the warders sprung. 

With clank and clang the cavern rang. 

The steeds did stamp and neigh ; 
And loud was the yell as each warrior fell 

Sterte up with hoop and cry. 



32 



SHEPHERD'S TALE— 1799 

" Woj wo," they cried, " thou caitiff coward 

That ever thou wert born ! 
Why drew ye not the knightly sword 

Before ye blew the horn ? " 

The morning on the mountain shone, 

And on the bloody ground 
Hurled from the cave with shiver'd bone. 

The mangled wretch was fouod. 

And still beneath the cavern dread, 

Among the glidders gray, 
A shapeless stone with lichens spread 

Marks where the wanderer lay.' 



The reader may be interested by comparing with 
this ballad the author's prose version of part of its 
legend, as given in one of the last works of his pen. 
He says, in the Letters on Demonology and Witch- 
craft, 1830 : — ' Thomas of Ercildowne, during his 
retirement, has been supposed, from time to time, to 
be levying forces to take the field in some crisis of 
his country's fate. The story has often been told, 
of a daring horse-jockey having sold a black horse 
to a man of venerable and antique appearance, who 
appointed the remarkable hillock upon Eildon hills, 
called the Lucken-hare, as the place where, at twelve 
o'clock at night, he should receive the price. He 
came, his money was paid in ancient coin, and he 
was invited by his customer to view his residence. 
The trader in horses followed his guide in the deepest 
astonishment through several long ranges of stalls, 
in each of which a horse stood motionless, while an 
armed warrior lay equally still at the charger's feet. 
2— c ZZ 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

" All these men," said the wizard in a whisper, " will 
awaken at the battle of Sheriffmuir." At the ex- 
tremity of this extraordinary dep6t hung a sword 
and a horn, which the prophet pointed out to the 
horse-dealer as containing the means of dissolving 
the spell. The man in confusion took the horn and 
attempted to wind it. The horses instantly started 
in their stalls, stamped, and shook their bridles, the 
men arose and clashed their armour, and the mortal, 
terrified at the tumult he had excited, dropped the 
horn from his hand. A voice like that of a giant, 
louder even than the tumult around, pronounced 
these words : — 

" Wo to the coward that ever he was born, 
That did not draw the sword before he blew the horn." 

A whirlwind expelled the horse-dealer from the 
cavern, the entrance to which he could never again 
find. A moral might be perhaps extracted fi-om the 
legend, namely, that it is best to be armed against 
danger before bidding it defiance.' 

One more fragment, in another style, and I shall 
have exhausted this budget. I am well aware that 
the introduction of such things will be considered 
by many as of questionable propriety; but on the 
whole, it appears to me the better course to omit 
nothing by which it is in my power to throw light 
on this experimental period. 



' Go sit old Cheviot's crest below. 
And pensive mark the lingering snow 
In all his scaurs abide, 

34 



KERR OF ABBOTRULE— OCTOBER 1799 

And slow dissolving from the hill 
In many a sightless, soundless rill. 
Feed sparkling Bowmont's tide. 



Fair shines the stream by bank and lea. 
As wimpling to the eastern sea 

She seeks Till's sullen bed. 
Indenting deep the fatal plain. 
Where Scotland's noblest, brave in vain, 

Around their monarch bled. 

And westward hills on hills you see. 
Even as old Ocean's mightiest sea 

Heaves high her waves of foam. 
Dark and snow-ridged from Cutsfeld's wold 
To the proud foot of Cheviot roll'd, 

Earth's mountain billows come.' 



Notwithstanding all these varied essays, and the 
charms of the distinguished society into which his 
reputation had already introduced him, Scott's friends 
do not appear to have as yet entertained the slightest 
notion that hterature was to be the main business 
of his life. A letter of Kerr of Abbotrule congratu- 
lates him on his having had more to do at the 
autumnal assizes of Jedburgh this year than on any 
former occasion, which intelligence he seems himself 
to have communicated with no feeble expressions of 
satisfaction. ' I greatly enjoy this,' says Kerr ; * go 
on ; and with your strong sense and hourly ripening 
knowledge, that you must rise to the top of the 
tree in the Parhament House in due season, I hold 
as certain as that Murray died Lord Mansfield. 

35 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

But don't let many an Ovid,* or rather many a 
Bums (which is better), be lost in you. I rather 
think men of business have produced as good poetry 
in their by-hours as the professed regulars ; and I 
don't see any sufficient reason why a Lord President 
Scott should not be a famous poet (in the vacation 
time), when we have seen a President Montesquieu 
step so nobly beyond the trammels in the Esprit des 
Loiaa. I suspect Dryden would have been a happier 
man had he had your profession. The reasoning 
talents visible in his verses, assure me that he would 
have ruled in Westminster Hall as easily as he did 
at Button's, and he might have found time enough 
besides for every thing that one really honours his 
memory for.' This friend appears to have enter- 
tained, in October 1799, the very opinion as to the 
profession of literature on which Scott acted through 
life. 

Having again given a week to Liddesdale, in com- 
pany with Mr. Shortreed, he spent a few days at 
Rosebank, and was preparing to return to Edin- 
burgh for the winter, when James Ballantyne called 
on him one morning, and begged him to supply a 
few paragraphs on some legal question of the day for 
his newspaper. Scott compUed; and carrying his 
article himself to the printing-office, took with him 
also some of his recent pieces, designed to appear in 
Lewis's collection. With these, especially, as his 
Memorandum says, the ' Morlachian fragment after 

* ' How sweet an Ovid, Murray was our boast ; 
How many Martials were in Pult'ney lost.' 

Dunciad, b. iv. v. 170. 
36 



JAMES BALLANTYNE 

Goethe,' Ballantyne was charmed, and he expressed 
his regret that Lewis's book was so long in appear- 
ing. Scott talked of Lewis with rapture ; and, 
after reciting some of his stanzas, said — ' I ought to 
apologize to you for having troubled you with any 
thing of my own when I had things like this for 
your ear.' — 'I felt at once,' says Ballantyne, 'that 
his own verses were far above what Lewis could ever 
do, and though, when I said this, he dissented, yet 
he seemed pleased vdth the warmth of my approba- 
tion.' At parting, Scott threw out a casual obser- 
vation, that he wondered his old friend did not try 
to get some little booksellers' work, 'to keep his 
types in play during the rest of the week.' Ballan- 
tyne answered, that such an idea had not before 
occurred to him — that he had no acquaintance with 
the Edinburgh 'trade'; but, if he had, his types 
were good, and he thought he could afford to work 
more cheaply than town-printers. Scott, ' with his 
good-humoured smile,' said — 'You had better try 
what you can do. You have been praising my little 
ballads ; suppose you print off" a dozen copies or so 
of as many as will make a pamphlet, sufficient to let 
my Edinburgh acquaintances judge of your skill for 
themselves.' Ballantyne assented; and I believe 
exactly twelve copies of WiUiara and Helen, The 
Fu-e-King, The Chase, and a few more of those 
pieces, were thrown oflF accordingly, with the title 
(alluding to the long delay of Lewis's collection) of 
'Apology for Tales of Terror— 1799.' This first 
specimen of a press, afterwards so celebrated, pleased 
Scott ; and he said to Ballantyne—' I have been for 

37 



LIFE OF SIR WALTEH SCOTT 

years collecting old Border ballads, and I think I 
could, with little trouble, put together such a selec- 
tion from them as might make a neat little volume, 
to sell for four or five shillings. I vdll talk to some 
of the booksellers about it when I get to Edinburgh, 
and if the thing goes on, you shall be the printer.' 
Ballantyne highly relished the proposal ; and the 
result of this little experiment changed wholly the 
course of his worldly fortunes, as well as of his 
friend's. 

Shortly after the commencement of the Winter 
Session, the office of Sheriff-depute of Selkirkshire 
became vacant by the death of an early ally of 
Scott's, Andrew Plummer of Middlestead, a scholar 
and antiquary, who had entered with zeal into his 
ballad researches, and whose name occurs accord- 
ingly more than once in the notes to the Border 
Minstrelsy. Perhaps the community of their tastes 
may have had some part in suggesting to the Duke 
of Buccleuch, that Scott might fitly succeed Mr. 
Plummer in the magistrature. Be that as it might, 
his Grace's influence was used with the late Lord 
Melville, who, in those days, had the general control 
of the Crown patronage in Scotland, and his Lord- 
ship was prepared to look favourably on Scott's pre- 
tensions to some office of this description. Though 
neither the Duke nor this able Minister were at all 
addicted to literature, they had both seen Scott 
frequently under their own roofs, and been pleased 
with his manners and conversation ; and he had by 
this time come to be on terms of affectionate inti- 
macy with some of the younger members of either 
38 



SHERIFF OF SELKIRK— DECEMBER 1799 

family. The Earl of Dalkeith (afterwards Duke 
Charles of Buccleuch), and his brother Lord Mon- 
tagu, had been participating, with kindred ardour, 
in the military patriotism of the period, and had 
been thrown into Scott's society under circumstances 
well qualified to ripen acquaintance into confidence. 
The Honourable Robert Dundas, eldest son of the 
statesman whose title he has inherited, had been one 
of Scott's companions in the High School ; and he, 
too, had been of late a lively partaker in the business 
of the yeomanry cavalry ; and, last not least, Scott 
always remembered with gratitude the strong inter- 
cession on this occasion of Lord Melville's nephews, 
Robert Dundas of Arniston, then Lord Advocate, 
and afterwards Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 
Scotland, and the Right Honourable William Dundas, 
then Secretary to the Board of Control, and now 
Lord Clerk Register. 

His appointment to the Sheriffship bears date 
16th December, 1799. It secured him an annual 
salary of £300 ; an addition to his resources which 
at once relieved his mind from whatever degree of 
anxiety he might have felt in considering the prospect 
of an increasing family, along with the ever precari- 
ous chances of a profession, in the daily drudgery of 
which it is impossible to suppose that he ever could 
have found much pleasure.* The duties of the office 



* ' My profession and I came to stand nearly upon the footing which 
honest Slender consoled himself on having established with Mistress 
Anne Page : " There was no great love between us at the beginningj and 
it pleased heaven to decrease it on farther acquaintance." ' — Introduction 
to the Lay of the Last Minstrel, 1830. 

39 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

were far from heavy; the district, small, peaceful, 
and pastoral, was in great part the property of the 
Duke of Buccleuch ; and he turned with redoubled 
zeal to his project of editing the ballads, many of 
the best of which belonged to this very district of 
his favourite Border — those ' tales,' which, as the 
Dedication of the Minstrelsy expresses it, had ' in 
elder times celebrated the prowess and cheered the 
halls ' of his noble patron's ancestors. 



40 



BORDER MINSTRELSY 



CHAPTER X 

The Border Minstrelsy in Preparation: Richard 
Heber : John Leyden : William Laidlaw : James 
Hogg : Correspondence with George Ellis ; Pub- 
lication of the Two First Volumes of the Border 
Minstrelsy. 

1800-1802 

James Ballantyne, in his Memorandum, after men- 
tioning his ready acceptance of Scott's proposal to 
print the Minstrelsy, adds — ' I do not believe, that 
even at this time, he seriously contemplated giving 
himself much to literature.' I confess, however, that 
a letter of his, addressed to Ballantyne in the spring 
of 1800, inclines me to question the accuracy of this 
impression. After alluding to an intention which 
he had entertained, in consequence of the delay of 
Lewis's collection, to publish an edition of the ballads 
contained in his own little volume, entitled 'Apology 
for Tales of Terror,' he goes on to detail plans for 
the fiiture direction of his printer's career, which 
were, no doubt, primarily suggested by the friendly 
interest he took in Ballantjnie's fortunes ; but there 
are some hints which, considering what afterwards 
did take place, lead me to suspect, that even thus 
early the writer contemplated the possibility at least 

41 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of being himself very intimately connected with the 
results of these air-drawn schemes. The letter is 
as follows : — 

• To Mr. J. Ballantyne, Kelso Mail Office, Kelso. 

'Castle Street, 22d April 1800. 

' Dear Sir, 

' I have your favour, since the receipt of which 
some things have occurred which induce me to post- 
pone my intention of publishing my ballads, particu- 
larly a letter from a friend, assuring me that " The 
Tales of Wonder " are actually in the printer's hand. 
In this situation I endeavour to strengthen my small 
stock of patience, which has been nearly exhausted 
by the delay of this work, to which (though for that 
reason alone) I almost regret having promised assist- 
ance. I am still resolved to have recourse to your 
press for the Ballads of the Border, which are in 
some forwardness. 

' I have now to request your forgiveness for men- 
tioning a plan which your friend Gillon and I have 
talked over together with a view as well to the 
public advantage as to your individual interest. It 
is nothing short of a migration from Kelso to this 
place, which I think might be effected upon a pro- 
spect of a very flattering nature. 

' Three branches of printing are quite open in 
Edinburgh, all of which I am well convinced you 
have both the ability and inclination to unite in 
your person. The first is that of an editor of a 
newspaper, which shall contain something of an 
uniform historical deduction of events, distinct from 
42 



LETTER TO B ALL ANT YNE— APRIL 1800 

the farrago of detached and unconnected plagiar- 
isms from the London paragraphs of "The Sun." 
Perhaps it might be possible (and Gillon has pro- 
mised to make enquiry about it) to treat with the 
proprietors of some estabUshed paper — suppose the 
Caledonian Mercury — and we would aU struggle 
to obtain for it some celebrity. To this might be 
added a " Monthly Magazine," and " Caledonian 
Annual Register," if you Avill ; for both of which, 
with the excellent literary assistance which Edin- 
burgh at present aflFords, there is a fair opening. 
The next object would naturally be the execu- 
tion of Session papers, the best paid work which 
a printer undertakes, and of which, I dare say, 
you would soon have a considerable share; for as 
you make it your business to superintend the 
proofs yourself, your education and abilities would 
insure your employers against the gross and pro- 
voking blunders which the poor composers are often 
obliged to submit to. The publication of works, 
either ancient or modern, opens a third fair field for 
ambition. The only gentleman who attempts any 
thing in that way is in very bad health ; nor can I, 
at any rate, compliment either the accuracy or the 
execution of his press. I believe it is well under- 
stood, that with equal attention an Edinburgh press 
would have superior advantages even to those of 
the metropolis; and though I would not advise 
launching into that line at once, yet it would be 
easy to feel your way by occupying your press in 
this manner on vacant days only. 

' It appears to me that such a plan, judiciously 

43 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

adopted and diligently pursued, opens a fair road to 
an ample fortune. In the meanwhile, the " Kelso 
Mail " might be so arranged as to be still a source of 
some advantage to you ; and I dare say, if wanted, 
pecuniary assistance might be procured to assist you 
at the outset, either upon terms of a share or other- 
wise; but I refer you for particulars to Joseph, in 
whose room I am now assuming the pen, for reasons 
too distressing to be declared, but at which you will 
readily guess. I hope, at all events, you will impute 
my interference to anjrthing rather than an imperti- 
nent intermeddling with your concerns on the part 
of. Dear Sir, your obedient servant, 

Walter Scott.' 

The Joseph Gillon here named was a solicitor 
of some eminence; a man of strong abilities and 
genuine wit and humour, for whom Scott, as well as 
Ballantyne, had a warm regard.* The intemperate 
habits alluded to at the close of Scott's letter gra- 
dually undermined his business, his health, and his 
character ; and he was glad, on leaving Edinburgh, 
which became quite necessary some years afterwards, 
to obtain a humble situation about the House of 
Lords — in which he died.f The answer of Ballan- 
tyne has not been preserved. 

To return to the ' Minstrelsy.' — Scott found able 



* Calling on him one day in his writing office, Scott said, ' Why, Joseph, 
this place is as hot as an oven.' ' Well,' quoth Gillon, 'and isn't it here 
that I make my bread ?' 

t The Poet casually meeting Joseph in the streets, on one of his visits 
to London, expressed his regret at having lost his society in Edinburgh ; 

44 



HEBER— 1800 

assistants in the completion of his design. Richard 
Heber (long Member of Parliament for the Uni- 
versity of Oxford) happened to spend this winter in 
Edinburgh, and was welcomed, as his talents and 
accomplishments entitled him to be, by the cultivated 
society of the place. With Scott his multifarious 
learning, particularly his profound knowledge of the 
literary monuments of the middle ages, soon drew 
him into habits of close alliance ; the stores of his 
library, even then extensive, were freely laid open, 
and his own oral commentaries were not less valuable. 
But through him Scott made acquaintance with a 
person still more quahfied to give him effectual aid 
in this undertaking ; a native of the Border — from 
infancy, like himself, an enthusiastic lover of its 
legends, and who had already saturated his mind 
with every species of lore that could throw light 
upon these relics. 

Few who read these pages can be unacquainted 
with the leading facts in the history of John Leyden. 
—Few can need to be reminded that this extra- 
ordinary man, born in a shepherd's cottage in one of 
the wildest valleys of Roxburghshire, and of course 
almost entirely self-educated, had, before he attained 
his nineteenth year, confounded the doctors of Edin- 
burgh by the portentous mass of his acquisitions in 
almost every department of learning. He had set 



Joseph responded by a quotation from the Scotch Metrical Version of the 
Psalms — 

' rather in 
The Lord's house would I keep a door, 
Than dweH in tents of sin.' 

45 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the extremest penury at utter defiance, or rather he 
had never been conscious that it could operate as a 
bar; for bread and water, and access to books and 
lectures, comprised all within the bound of his 
wishes ; and thus he toiled and battled at the gates 
of science after science, until his unconquerable per- 
severance carried everything before it ; and yet with 
this monastic abstemiousness and iron hardness of 
wiU, perplexing those about him by manners and 
habits in which it was hard to say whether the moss- 
trooper or the schoolman of former days most pre- 
vailed, he was at heart a poet. 

Archibald Constable, in after life one of the most 
eminent of British publishers, was at this period the 
keeper of a small book-shop, into which few, but the 
poor students of Leyden's order, had hitherto found 
their way. Heber, in the coiu-se of his bibliomaniacal 
prowlings, discovered that it contained some of 

' The small old volumes, dark with tarnished gold,' 

which were already the Delilahs of his imagination : 
and, moreover, that the young bookseller had himself 
a strong taste for such charmers. Frequenting the 
place accordingly, he observed with some curiosity 
the barbarous aspect and gestures of another daily 
visitant, who came not to purchase, evidently, but 
to pore over the more recondite articles of the col- 
lection — often balanced for hours on a ladder with 
a folio in his hand, like Dominie Sampson. The 
English virtuoso was on the look-out for any books 
or MSS. that might be of use to the editor of the 
projected 'Minstrelsy,' and some casual colloquy 
46 



HEBER— LEYDEN— 1800 

led to the discovery that this unshorn stranger was, 
amidst the endless labyrinth of his lore, a master of 
legend and tradition — an enthusiastic collector and 
most skilful expounder of these very Border ballads in 
particular. Scott heard with much interest Heber's 
accoimt of his odd acquaintance, and found, when 
introduced, the person whose initials, affixed to a 
series of pieces in verse, chiefly translations from 
Greek, Latin, and the northern languages, scattered, 
during the last three or four years, over the pages 
of the ' Edinburgh Magazine,' had often much 
excited his curiosity, as various indications pointed 
out the Scotch Border to be the native district of 
this unknown 'J. L.' 

These new friendships led to a great change in 
Leyden's position, purposes, and prospects. He was 
presently received into the best society of Edinburgh, 
where his strange, wild uncouthness of demeanour 
does not seem to have at all interfered with the 
general appreciation of his genius, his gigantic en- 
dowments, and really amiable virtues. Fixing his 
ambition on the East, where he hoped to rival the 
achievements of Sir William Jones, he at length, 
about the beginning of 1802, obtained the promise 
of some literary appointment in the East India 
Company's service ; but when the time drew near, it 
was discovered that the patronage of the season had 
been exhausted, with the exception of one surgeon- 
assistanfs commission — which had been with diffi- 
culty secured for him by Mr. William Dundas ; who, 
moreover, was obliged to inform him, that if he 
accepted it, he must be qualified to pass his medical 

47 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tiials within six months. This news, which would 
have crushed any other man's hopes to the dust, was 
only a welcome fillip to the ardour of Leyden. He 
that same hour grappled with a new science, in full 
confidence that whatever ordinary men could do in 
three or four years, his energy could accomplish in 
as many months ; took his degree accordingly in the 
beginning of 1803, having just before published his 
beautiful poem, the Scenes of Infancy ; sailed to 
India; raised for himself, within seven short years, 
the reputation of the most marvellous of Orientalists; 
and died, in the midst of the proudest hopes, at the 
same age with Bums and Byron, in 1811. 

But to return : — Leyden was enlisted by Scott in 
the service of Lewis, and immediately contributed a 
ballad, called The Elf-King, to the Tales of Terror. 
Those highly-spirited pieces. The Cout of Keildar, 
Lord Soulis, and The Mermaid, were furnished for 
the original department of Scott's own collection: 
and the Dissertation on Fairies, prefixed to its 
second volume, ' although arranged and digested by 
the editor, abounds with instances of such curious 
reading as Leyden only had read, and was originally 
compiled by him ' ; but not the least of his labours 
was in the collection of the old ballads themselves. 
When he first conversed with Ballantyne on the 
subject of the proposed work, and the printer signi- 
fied his belief that a single volume of moderate size 
would be sufficient for the materials, Leyden ex- 
claimed — 'Dash it, does Mr. Scott mean another 
thin thing like Goetz of Berlichingen ? I have 
more than that in my head myself: we shall turn 
48 




THOMAS' SCOTT, 



JOHN LEYDEN 

out three or four such volumes at least.' He went 
to work stoutly in the realization of these wider 
views. ' In this labour,' says Scott, ' he was equally 
interested by friendship for the editor, and by his 
own patriotic zeal for the honour of the Scottish 
Borders ; and both may be judged of from the 
following circumstance. An interesting fragment 
had been obtained of an ancient historical ballad; 
but the remainder, to the great disturbance of the 
editor and his coadjutor, was not to be recovered. 
Two days afterwards, while the editor was sitting 
with some company after dinner, a sound was heard 
at a distance hke that of the whistUng of a tempest 
through the torn rigging of the vessel which scuds 
before it. The sounds increased as they approached 
more near ; and Leyden (to the great astonishment 
of such of the guests as did not know him) burst 
into the room, chanting the desiderated ballad with 
the most enthusiastic gesture, and aU the energy of 
what he used to call the saw-tones of his voice. It 
turned out that he had walked between forty and 
fifty miles and back again, for the sole purpose of 
visiting an old person who possessed this precious 
remnant of antiquity.' * 

Various allusions to the progress of Leyden's 
fortunes wiU occur in letters to be quoted hereafter. 
I may refer the reader, for further particulars, to 
the biographical sketch by Scott from which the 
preceding anecdote is taken. Many tributes to his 



* Essay on the Life of Leyden— Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works, 
vol. iv. p. 166. 

2 — D 49 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

memory are scattered over his friend's other works, 
both prose and verse ; and, above aU, Scott did not 
forget him when exploring, three years after his 
death, the scenery of his ' Mermaid ' : — 

' Scarba's isle, whose tortured shore 
Still rings to Corrievrekan's roar, 

And lonely Colonsay ; — 
Scenes sung by him who sings no more : 
His bright and brief career is o'er. 

And mute his tuneful strains ; 
Quench'd is his lamp of varied lore. 
That loved the light of song to pour; 
A distant and a deadly shore 

Has Leyden's cold remains ! ' * 

During the years 1800 and 1801, the Minstrelsy 
formed its editor's chief occupation — a labour of love 
truly, if ever such there was ; but neither this nor 
his sheriffship interfered with his regular attendance 
at the bar, the abandonment of which was all this 
while as far as it ever had been from his imagina- 
tion, or that of any of his friends. He continued 
to have his summer headquarters at Lasswade ; and 
Mr, (now Sir John) Stoddart, who visited him there 
in the course of his Scottish toiu',t dwells on 'the 
simple unostentatious elegance of the cottage, and 
the domestic picture which he there contemplated — 
a man of native kindness and cultivated talent, pass- 
ing the intervals of a learned profession amidst scenes 
highly favourable to his poetic inspirations, not in 
churlish and rustic sohtude, but in the daily exercise 



* Lord of the Isles, Canto iv. st. 11. 

+ The account of this Tour was published in 1801. 

50 



ETTRICK FOREST 

of the most precious sympathies as a husband, a 
father, and a friend.' His means of hospitality were 
now much enlarged, and the cottage, on a Saturday 
and Sunday at least, was seldom without visitors. 

Among other indications of greater ease in his 
circumstances, which I find in his letter-book, he 
writes to Heber, after his return to London in May 
1800, to request his good offices on behalf of Mrs. 
Scott, who had ' set her heart on a phaeton, at once 
strong, and low, and handsome, and not to cost 
more than thirty guineas ' ; which combination of 
advantages Heber seems to have found by no means 
easy of attainment. The phaeton was, however, dis- 
covered; and its springs must soon have been put 
to a sufficient trial, for this was 'the first wheeled 
carriage that ever penetrated into Liddesdale ' — 
namely, in August 1800. The friendship of the 
Buccleuch family now placed better means of 
research at his disposal, and Lord Dalkeith had 
taken special care that there should be a band of 
pioneers in waiting for his orders when he reached 
Hermitage. 

Though he had not given up Lasswade, his sheriff- 
ship now made it necessary for him that he should 
be frequently in Ettrick Forest. On such occasions 
he took up his lodgings in the httle inn at Cloven- 
ford, a favourite fishing station on the road from 
Edinburgh to Selkirk. From this place he could 
ride to the county town whenever business required 
his presence, and he was also within a few miles of 
the vales of Yarrow and Ettrick, where he obtained 
large accessions to his store of ballads. It was in 

51 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

one of these excursions that, penetrating beyond St. 
Mary's lake, he found a hospitable reception at the 
farm of Blackhouse, situated on the Douglas-bum, 
then tenanted by a remarkable family, to which I 
have already made allusion — ^that of William Laid- 
law. He was then a very young man, but the 
extent of his acquirements was already as noticeable 
as the vigour and originality of his mind ; and their 
correspondence, where ' Sir ' passes, at a few bounds, 
through ' Dear Sir,' and ' Dear Mr. Laidlaw,' to 
' Dear WilUe,' shews how speedily this new acquaint- 
ance had warmed into a very tender affection. 
Laidlaw's zeal about the ballads was repaid by 
Scott's anxious endeavours to get him removed from 
a sphere for which, he writes, ' it is no flattery to 
say that you are much too good.' It was then, and 
always continued to be, his opinion, that his friend 
was particularly quahfied for entering with advan- 
tage on the study of the medical profession ; but 
such designs, if Laidlaw himself ever took them up 
seriously, were not ultimately persevered in ; and I 
question whether any worldly success could, after all, 
have overbalanced the retrospect of an honourable 
life spent happily in the open air of nature, amidst 
scenes the most captivating to the eye of genius, and 
in the intimate confidence of, perhaps, the greatest 
of contemporary minds. 

James Hogg spent ten years of his life in the 
service of Mr. Laidlaw's father, but he had passed 
into that of another sheep farmer in a neighbour- 
ing valley before Scott first visited Blackhouse. 
WiUiam Laidlaw and Hogg were, however, the 
52 



LAIDLAW— HOGG 

most intimate of friends, and the former took care 
that Scott should see, without delay, one whose 
enthusiasm about the minstrelsy of the Forest was 
equal to his own, and whose mother, then an aged 
woman, though she lived many years afterwards, was 
celebrated for having by heart several ballads in a 
more perfect form than any other inhabitant of the 
vale of Ettrick. The personal history of James 
Hogg must have interested Scott even more than 
any acquisition of that sort which he owed to this 
acquaintance with, perhaps, the most remarkable man 
that ever wore the maud of a shepherd. But I need 
not here repeat a tale which his own language will 
convey to the latest posterity. Under the garb, 
aspect, and bearing of a rude peasant — and rude 
enough he was in most of these things, even after no 
inconsiderable experience of society — Scott found a 
brother poet, a true son of nature and genius, hardly 
conscious of his powers. He had taught himself to 
write by copying the letters of a printed book as he lay 
watching his flock on the hill-side, and had probably 
reached the utmost pitch of his ambition when he 
first found that his artless rhymes could touch the 
heart of the ewe-nulker who partook the shelter of 
his mantle during the passing storm. As yet his 
naturally kind and simple character had not been 
exposed to any of the dangerous flatteries of the 
world ; his heart was pure — his enthusiasm buoyant 
as that of a happy child ; and well as Scott knew 
that reflection, sagacity, wit, and wisdom, were 
scattered abundantly among the humblest rangers of 
these pastoral solitudes, there was here a depth and 

53 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

a brightness that filled him with wonder, combined 
with a quaintness of humour, and a thousand little 
touches of absurdity, which afforded him more 
entertainment, as I have often heard him say, than 
the best comedy that ever set the pit in a roar. 

Scott opened in the same year a correspondence 
with the venerable Bishop of Dromore, who seems, 
however, to have done little more than express a 
warm interest in an undertaking so nearly resembling 
that which will ever keep his own name in remem- 
brance. He had more success in his applications to 
a more impromising quarter — ^namely, with Joseph 
Ritson, the ancient and virulent assailant of Bishop 
Percy's editorial character. This narrow-minded, 
sour, and dogmatical little word-catcher had hated 
the very name of a Scotsman, and was utterly in- 
capable of sympathizing with any of the higher views 
of his new correspondent. Yet the bland courtesy of 
Scott disarmed even this half-crazy pedant ; and he 
communicated the stores of his really valuable learn- 
ing in a manner that seems to have greatly surprised 
all who had hitherto held any intercourse with him 
on antiquarian topics. It astonished, above all, the 
late amiable and elegant George Ellis, whose ac- 
quaintance was about the same time opened to Scott 
through their common friend Heber. Mr. Ellis was 
now busily engaged in collecting the materials for 
his charming works, entitled Specimens of Ancient 
English Poetry, and Specimens of Ancient English 
Roman<:e. The correspondence between him and 
Scott soon came to be constant. They met per- 
sonally, not long after the correspondence had com- 
54 



GEORGE ELLIS— 1801 

menced, conceived for each other a cordial respect 
and affection, and continued on a footing of almost 
brotherly intimacy ever after. To this valuable 
alliance Scott owed, among other advantages, his 
early and ready admission to the acquaintance and 
familiarity of Ellis's bosom friend, his coadjutor in 
the Anti-jacobin, and the confidant of all his literary 
schemes, the late illustrious statesman, Mr. Canning. 

The first letter of Scott to Ellis is dated March 27, 
1801, and begins thus : — ' Sir, as I feel myself highly 
flattered by your enquiries, I lose no time in answer- 
ing them to the best of my ability. Your eminence 
in the literary world, and the warm praises of our 
mutual friend Heber, had made me long wish for an 
opportunity of being known to you. I enclose the 
first sheet of Sir Tristrem, that you may not so 
much rely upon my opinion as upon that which a 
specimen of the style and versification may enable 
your better judgment to form for itself . . . These 
pages are transcribed by Leyden, an excellent young 
man, of uncommon talents, patronised by Heber, 
and who is of the utmost assistance to my literary 
undertakings.' 

As Scott's edition of Sir Tristrem did not appear 
until May 1804, and he and Leyden were busy with 
the Border Minstrelsy, when his correspondence with 
Ellis commenced, this early indication of his labours 
on the former work may require explanation. The 
truth is, that both Scott and Leyden, having eagerly 
arrived at the belief, from which neither of them ever 
permitted himself to falter, that the ' Sir Tristrem ' 
of the Auchinleck MS. was virtually, if not literally, 

55 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the production of Thomas the Rhymer, laird of Ercil- 
doune in Berwickshire, who flourished at the close 
of the thirteenth century — the original intention had 
been to give it, not only a place, but a very promi- 
nent one, in the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 
The doubts and difficulties which Ellis suggested, 
however, though they did not shake Scott in his 
opinion as to the parentage of the romance, induced 
researches which occupied so much time, and gave 
birth to notes so bulky, that he eventually found it 
expedient first to pass it over in the two volumes 
of the Minstrelsy which appeared in 1802, and then 
even in the third, which followed a year later ; thus 
reserving Tristrem for a separate publication, which 
did not take place until after Leyden had sailed for 
India. 

I must not swell these pages by transcribing the 
entire correspondence of Scott and Ellis, the greater 
part of which consists of minute antiquarian discus- 
sion which could hardly interest the general reader ; 
but I shall give such extracts as seem to throw light 
on Scott's personal history during this period. 

' To George Ellis, Esq. 

'Lasswade Cottage, 20th April 1801. 

' My Dear Sir, 

' I should long ago have acknowledged your 
instructive letter, but I have been wandering about 
in the wilds of Liddesdale and Ettrick Forest, in 
search of additional materials for the Border Min- 
strelsy. I cannot, however, boast much of my suc- 
cess. One of our best reciters has turned religious 

56 



LETTERS TO ELLIS— 1801 

in his later days, and finds out that old songs are 
unlawful. If so, then, as FalstaiF says, is many an 
acquaintance of mine damned. I now send you an 
accurate analysis of Sir Tristrem. Philo-Tomas, 
whoever he was, must surely have been an English- 
man ; when his hero joins battle with Moraunt, he 
exclaims — 

" God help Tristrem the Knight, 
He fought for Ingland." 

This strain of national attachment would hardly have 
proceeded from a Scottish author, even though he 
had laid his scene in the sister country. In other 
respects the language appears to be Scottish, and 
certainly contains the essence of Tomas's work. 
. . . You shall have Sir Otuel in a week or two, 
and I shall be happy to compare your Romance of 
Merlin with our Arthur and Merlin, which is a 
very good poem, and may supply you with some 
valuable additions. ... I would very fain lend your 
elephant * a lift, but I fear I can be of httle use to 



* This phrase will be best explained by an extract from a letter, 
addressed by Sir Walter Scott, on the 12th February 1830, to William 
Brockedon, Esq., acknowledging that gentleman's courtesy in sending 
him a copy of the beautiful work entitled ' Passes of the Alps ' : — 

'My friend the late George Ellis, one of the most accomplished 
scholars, and delightful companions whom I have ever known, himself a 
great geographer on the most extended and liberal plan, used to tell me 
an anecdote of the eminent antiquary General Melville, who was crossing 
the Alps, with Livy and other historical accounts in his post chaise, 
determined to follow the route of Hannibal. He met Ellis, I forget 
where at this moment, on the western side of that tremendous ridge, 
and pushed onwards on his journey after a day spent with his brother 
antiquary. After journeying more slowly than his friend, Ellis was 
astonished to meet General Melville coming back. " What is the matter, 

57 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

you. I have been rather an observer of detached 
facts respecting antiquities, than a regular student. 
At the same time, I may mention one or two circum- 
stances, were it but to place yotir elephant upon a 
tortoise. From Selkirkshire to Cumberland, we have 
a ditch and bulwark of great strength, called the Cat- 
rail, running north and south, and obviously calcu- 
lated to defend the western side of the island against 
the inhabitants of the eastern half Within this 
bulwark, at Drummelzier, near Peebles, we find the 
grave of Merlin, the account of whose madness and 
death you will find in Fordun. The same author 
says he was seized with his madness during a dreadful 
battle on the Liddle, which divides Cumberland fi-om 
Scotland. All this seems to favour your ingenious 
hypothesis, that the sway of the British Champion 
[Arthur] extended over Cumberland and Strath- 
cluyd, as well as Wales. Ercildoune is hardly five 
miles from the Catrail. . . . 

' Leyden has taken up a most absurd resolution 



my dear friend? how come you back on the journey you had so much 
at heart?" — "Alas !" said Melville, very dejectedly, "I would have got 
on myself well enough, but I could not get my elephants over the pass." 
He had, in idea, Hannibal with his train of elephants in his party. It 
became a sort of bye-word between Ellis and me ; and in assisting each 
other during a close correspondence of some years, we talked of a lift to 
the elephants. 

' You, Sir, have put this theoretical difficulty at an end, and show how, 
without bodily labour, the antiquary may traverse the Alps with his 
elephants, without the necessity of a retrograde movement. In giving 
a distinct picture of so interesting a country as Switzerland, so peculiar 
in its habits, and its history, you have added a valuable chapter to the 
history of Europe, in which the Alpine regions make so distinguished 
a figure. Accept my best congratulations on achieving so interesting 
a task.' 

58 



LETTERS TO ELLIS— 1801 

to go to Africa on a journey of discovery. Will you 
have the goodness to beg Heber to write to him 
seriously on so ridiculous a plan, which can promise 
nothing either pleasant or profitable. I am certain 
he would get a church in Scotland with a little 
patience and prudence, and it gives me great pain to 
see a valuable young man of uncommon genius and 
acquirements fairly throw himself away. Yours truly, 

W. Scott.' 

' To the Same. 

'Musselburgh, llth May 1801. 

' . . . I congi-atulate you upon the health of your 
elephants — as an additional mouthful of provender 
for them, pray observe that the tale of Sir Gawain's 
Foul Ladie, in Percy's Reliques, is originally Scaldic, 
as you will see in the history of Hrolfe Kraka, edited 
by Torfseus from the ancient Sagas regarding that 
prince. I think I could give you some more crumbs 
of information were I at home ; but I am at present 
discharging the duties of quartermaster to a regi- 
ment of volunteer cavalry — an office altogether in- 
consistent with romance ; for where do you read that 
Sir Tristrem weighed out hay and corn; that Sir 
Lancelot du Lac distributed billets ; or that any 
Knight of the Round Table condescended to higgle 
about a truss of straw ? Such things were left for 
our degenerate days, when no warder sounds his horn 
from the barbican as the preux chevalier approaches 
to claim hospitality. Bugles indeed we have; but 
it is only to scream us out of bed at five in the 
morning — hospitality such as the seneschals of Don 

59 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Quixote's castles were wont to offer him — and all 
to troopers, to whom, for valour eke and courtesy. 
Major Sturgeon* himself might yield the palm. In 
the midst of this scene of motley confusion, I long, 
like the hart for water-brooks, for the arrival of 
your grande opus. The nature of your researches 
animates me to proceed in mine (though of a 
much more hmited and local nature), even as iron 
sharpeneth iron. I am in utter despair about some 
of the hunting terms in " Sir Tristrem." There is 
no copy of Lady Juliana Berners' workf in Scot- 
land, and I would move heaven and earth to get a 
sight of it. But as I fear this is utterly impossible, 
I must have recourse to your friendly assistance, and 
communicate a set of doubts and queries, which, if 
any man in England can satisfy, I am well assured 
it must be you. You may therefore expect, in a few 
days, another epistle. Mean time I must invoke the 
spirit of Nimrod.' 

'Edinburgh, 10th June 1801. 

' My Dear Sir, 

' A heavy family misfortune, the loss of an only 
sister in the prime of life, has prevented, for some 
time, my proposed communication regarding the 
hunting terms of " Sir Tristrem." I now enclose 
the passage, accurately copied, with such explana- 
tions as occur to myself, subject always to your 
correction and better judgment. ... I have as yet 

* See Foote's farce of The Mayor of Garrat. 

t 'The Boke of St. Albans' — first printed in 1486— reprinted by 
Mr. Haslewood in 1810. 

6o 



LETTERS TO ELLIS— 1801 

had only a glance of The Specimens. Thomson, 
to whom Heber intrusted them, had left them to 
follow him from London in a certain trimk, which 
has never yet arrived. I should have quarrelled 
with him excessively for making so little allowance 
for my impatience, had it not been that a violent 
epidemic fever, to which I owe the loss already 
mentioned, has threatened also to deprive me, in 
his person, of one of my dearest friends, and the 
Scottish literary world of one of its most promising 
members. 

' Some prospect seems to open for getting Leyden 
out to India, under the patronage of Mackintosh, 
who goes as chief of the intended academical estab- 
lishment at Calcutta. That he is highly qualified 
for acting a distinguished part in any literary under- 
taking, will be readily granted ; nor do I think Mr. 
Mackintosh will meet with many half so likely to be 
useful in the proposed institution. The extent and 
versatility of his talents would soon raise him to his 
level, even although he were at first to go out in a 
subordinate department. If it be in your power to 
second his apphcation, I rely upon Heber's interest 
with you to induce you to do so.' 

'Edinburgh, 13th July 1801. 

'. . . I am infinitely obhged to you, indeed, for 
your interference in behalf of our Leyden, who, I 
am sure, will do credit to your patronage, and may 
be of essential service to the proposed mission. 
What a difference from broiling himself, or getting 
himself UteraUy broiled, in Africa. "Que diable 

6i 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

vouloit-il faire dans cette galore ? " . . . His brother 
is a fine lad, and is likely to enjoy some advantages 
which he wanted — I mean by being more early 
introduced into society. I have intermitted his 
transcript of "Merlin," and set him to work on 
" Otuel," of which I send a specimen.' . . . 

'Edinburgh, 7th December 1801. 

' . . . My literary amusements have of late been 
much retarded and interrupted, partly by profes- 
sional avocations, and partly by removing to a house 
newly furnished, where it will be some time before 
I can get my few books put into order, or clear the 
premises of painters and workmen ; not to mention 
that these worthies do not nowadays proceed upon 
the plan of Solomon's architects, whose saws and 
hammers were not heard, but rather upon the more 
ancient system of the builders of Babel, To aug- 
ment this confusion, my wife has fixed upon this 
time as proper to present me with a fine chopping 
boy, whose pipe, being of the shrillest, is heard amid 
the storm, Uke a boatswain's whistle in a gale of 
wind. These various causes of confusion have also 
interrupted the labours of young Leyden on your 
behalf ; but he has again resumed the task of tran- 
scribing " Arthour," of which I once again transmit 
a part. I have to acknowledge, with the deepest 
sense of gratitude, the beautiful analysis of Mr, 
Douce's Fragments, which throws great light upon 
the romance of Sir Tristrem. In arranging that, I 
have anticipated your judicious hint, by dividing it 
into three parts, where the story seems naturally to 
62 



LETTERS TO ELLIS— 1801 

pause, and prefixing an accurate argument, referring 
to the stanzas as numbered. 

' I am glad that Mrs. Ellis and you have derived 
any amusement from the House of Aspen. It is a 
very hurried dramatic sketch ; and the fifth act, as 
you remark, would require a- total revisal previous 
to representation or publication. At one time I 
certainly thought, with my friends, that it might 
have ranked well enough by the side of the Castle 
Spectre, Bluebeard, and the other drum and trumpet 
exhibitions of the day; but the "Plays of the 
Passions "* have put me entirely out of conceit with 
my Germanized brat; and should I ever again attempt 
dramatic composition, I would endeavour after the 
genuine old English model. . . . The publication 
of "The Complaynf't is delayed. It is a work 
of multifarious lore. I am truly anxious about 
Leyden's Indian journey, which seems to hang fire. 
Mr. William Dundas was so good as to promise me 
his interest to get him appointed Secretary to the 
Institution ;\ but whether he has succeeded or not 
I have not yet learned. The various kinds of distress 
under which literary men, I mean such as have no 
other profession than letters, must labour, in a com- 
mercial country, is a great disgrace to society. I 
own to you I always tremble for the fate of genius 



* The first volume of Joanna Baillie's ' Plays of the Passions ' appeared 
in 1798. Vol. ii. followed in 1802. 

+ ' The Complaynt of Scotland, written in 1648 ; with a Preliminary 
Dissertation and Glossary, by John Leyden,' was published by Constable 
in January 1802. 

f A proposed Institution for purposes of Education at Calcutta. 

63 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

when left to its own exertions, which, however 
powerful, are usually, by some bizarre dispensation 
of nature, useful to every one but themselves. If 
Heber could learn by Mackintosh, whether any- 
thing could be done to fix Leyden's situation, and 
what sort of interest would be most likely to suc- 
ceed, his friends here might unite every exertion 
in his favour. . . . Direct Castle Street, as usual ; 
my new house being in the same street with my old 
dwelling.' 

'Edinburgh, 8th January 1802. 

'Your favour arrived just as I was sitting down 
to write to you, with a sheet or two of "King 
Arthur." I fear, from a letter which I have received 
from Mr. WiUiam Dundas, that the Indian Estab- 
lishment is tottering, and wiU probably fall. Leyden 
has therefore been induced to turn his mind to some 
other mode of making his way to the East ; and pro- 
poses taking his degree as a physician and surgeon, 
with the hope of getting an appointment in the 
Company's Service as surgeon. If the Institution 
goes forward, his having secured this step will not 
prevent his being attached to it; at the same time 
that it wiU afford him a provision independent of 
what seems to be a very precarious establishment. 
Mr. Dundas has promised to exert himself. ... I 
have just returned from the hospitable halls of 
Hamilton, where I have spent the Christmas.' . . . 

'14th February 1802. 

' I have been silent, but not idle. The transcript 

64 



THE MINSTRELSY— 1802 

of King Arthur is at length finished, being a frag- 
ment of about 7000 lines. Let me know how I 
shall transmit a parcel containing it, with the Com- 
playnt and the Border Ballads, of which I expect 
every day to receive some copies. I think you will 
be disappointed in the Ballads. I have as yet 
touched very little on the more remote antiquities 
of the Border, which, indeed, my songs, all compara- 
tively modern, did not lead me to discuss. Some 
scattered herbage, however, the elephants may 
perhaps find. By the way, you will not forget to 
notice the mountain called Arthur's Seat, which 
overhangs this city. When I was at school, the 
tradition ran that King Arthur occupied as his 
throne a huge rock upon its summit, and that he 
beheld from thence some naval engagement upon 
the Frith of Forth. I am pleasantly interrupted 
by the post; he brings me a letter from William 
Dundas, fixing Leyden's appointment as an assistant- 
surgeon to one of the India settlements — which, is 
not yet determined; and another from my printer, 
a very ingenious young man, teUing me, that he 
means to escort the " Minstrelsy " up to London in 
person. I shall, therefore, direct him to transmit my 
parcel to Mr. Nicol.' . . . 

'2d March 1802. 

' I hope that long ere this you have received the 
Ballads, and that they have afforded you some amuse- 
ment. I hope, also, that the threatened third 
volume will be more interesting to Mrs. Ellis than 
the dry antiquarian detail of the two first could 

2 — E 65 



/ 



/ 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

prove. I hope, moreover, that I shall have the 

pleasure of seeing you soon, as some circumstances 

seem not so much to caU me to London, as to 

furnish me with a decent apology for coming up 

some time this spring; and I long particularly to 

say, that I know my friend Mr. Ellis by sight as 

well as intimately. I am glad you have seen the 

Marquess of Lorn, whom I have met frequently at 

the house of his charming sister. Lady Charlotte 

Campbell, whom, I am sure, if you are acquainted 

with her, you must admire as much as I do. Her 

Grace of Gordon, a great admirer of yours, spent 

some days here lately, and, hke Lord Lorn, was 

highly entertained with an account of our friendship 

a la distance. I do not, nor did I ever, intend to 

fob you off with twenty or thirty lines of the second 

part of Sir Guy. Young Leyden has been much 

engaged with his studies, otherwise you would have 

long since received what I now send, namely, the 

combat between Guy and Colbronde, which I take 

to be the cream of the romance. ... If I do not 

come to London this spring, I wiU find a safe 

opportunity of returning Lady JuHana Berners, with 

my very best thanks for the use of her reverence's 

work.' 

The preceding extracts are picked out of letters, 
mostly very long ones, in which Scott discusses 
questions of antiquarian interest, suggested some- 
times by Ellis, and sometimes by the course of his 
own researches among the MSS. of the Advocates' 
Library. The passages which I have transcribed 
66 



HAMILTON PALACE— 1801 

appear sufficient to give the reader a distinct notion 
of the tenour of Scott's life while his first consider- 
able work was in progress through the press. In 
fact, they place before us in a vivid Ught the chief 
features of a character which, by this time, was com- 
pletely formed and settled — which had passed un- 
moved through the first blandishments of worldly 
applause, and which no subsequent trials of that sort 
could ever shake from its early balance : — His calm 
delight in his own pursuits — the patriotic enthusiasm 
which mingled with all the best of his literary efforts; 
his modesty as to his own general merits, combined 
with a certain dogged resolution to maintain his own 
first view of a subject, however assailed ; his readi- 
ness to interrupt his own tasks by any drudgery by 
which he could assist those of a friend ; his steady 
and determined watchfulness over the struggling for- 
tunes of young genius and worth. 

The reader has seen that he spent the Christmas 
of 1801 at Hamilton Palace, in Lanarkshire. To 
Lady Anne Hamilton he had been introduced by her 
friend, Lady Charlotte Campbell, and both the late 
and the present Dukes of Hamilton appear to have 
partaken of Lady Anne's admiration for Glenfinlas, 
and the Eve of St. John. A morning's ramble to 
the majestic ruins of the old baronial castle on the 
precipitous banks of the Evan, and among the ad- 
joining remains of the primeval Caledonian forest, 
suggested to him a ballad, not inferior in execution 
to any that he had hitherto produced, and especially 
interesting as the first in which he grapples with 
the world of picturesque incident unfolded in the 

67 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

authentic annals of Scotland. With the magnificent 
localities before him, he skilfully interwove the daring 
assassination of the Regent Murray by one of the 
clansmen of ' the princely Hamilton.' Had the sub- 
ject been taken up in after years, we might have had 
another Marmion or Heart of Mid-Lothian ; for in 
Cadyow Castle we have the materials and outline of 
more than one of the noblest of ballads. 

About two years before this piece began to be 
handed about in Edinburgh, Thomas Campbell had 
made his appearance there, and at once seized a high 
place in the literary world by his ' Pleasures of Hope.' 
Among the most eager to welcome him had been 
Scott ; and I find the brother-bard thus expressing 
himself concerning the MS. of Cadyow : — 

' The verses of Cadyow Castle are perpetually 
ringing in my imagination : — 

" Where, mightiest of the beasts of chase 
That roam in woody Caledon, 
Crashing the forest in his race, 
The mountain bull comes thundering on — " 

and the arrival of Hamilton, when 

" Reeking from the recent deed. 

He dashed his carbine on the ground." 

I have repeated these hnes so often on the North 
Bridge that the whole fraternity of coachmen know 
me by tongue as I pass. To be sure, to a mind in 
sober, serious street-walking humour, it must bear 
an appearance of lunacy when one stamps with the 
68 



THE MINSTRELSY PUBLISHED— 1802 

hurried pace and fervent shake of the head, which 
strong, pithy poetry excites.' 

Scott finished Cadyow Castle before the last sheets 
of the second volume of his Minstrelsy had passed 
through the press ; but ' the two volumes,' as Ballan- 
tyne says, ' were already full to overflowing ' ; so it 
was reserved for the 'threatened third.' The two 
volumes appeared in the course of January 1802, 
from the respectable house of CadeU and Davies, in 
the Strand ; and, owing to the cold reception of 
Lewis's Tales of Wonder, which had come forth a 
year earlier, these may be said to have first intro- 
duced Scott as an original writer to the English 
public. 

In his Remarks on the Imitation of Popular 
Poetry, he says : — ' Owing to the failure of the 
vehicle I had chosen, my first efforts to present 
myself before the public as an original writer proved 
as vain as those by which I had previously endea- 
voured to distinguish myself as a translator. Like 
Lord Home, however, at the Battle of Flodden, I 
did so far well, that I was able to stand and save 
myself ; and amidst the general depreciation of the 
Tales of Wonder, my small share of the obnoxious 
publication was dismissed without censure, a,nd in 
some cases obtained praise from the critics. The 
consequences of my escape made me naturally more 
daring, and I attempted in my own name, a collec- 
tion of ballads of various kinds, both ancient and 
modern, to be connected by the common tie of rela- 
tion to the Border districts in which I had collected 
them. The edition was curious, as being the first 

69 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

example of a work printed by my friend and school- 
fellow, Mr. James Ballantyne, who at that period 
was editor of a provincial paper. When the book 
came out, the imprint, Kelso, was read with wonder 
by amateurs of typography, who had never heard of 
such a place, and were astonished at the example of 
handsome printing which so obscure a town had pro- 
duced. As for the editorial part of the task, my 
attempt to imitate the plan and style of Bishop 
Percy, observing only more strict fidehty concern- 
ing my originals, was favourably received by the 
public' 

The first edition of volumes i. and ii. of the 
Minstrelsy consisted of eight hundred copies, fifty 
of which were on large paper. One of the embel- 
lishments was a view of Hermitage castle, the history 
of which is rather curious. Scott executed a rough 
sketch of it during the last of his ' Liddesdale raids ' 
with Shortreed, standing for that purpose for an hour 
or more up to his middle in the snow. Nothing 
can be ruder than the performance, which I have 
now before me ; but his fi-iend WUUam Clerk made 
a better drawing from it ; and from his, a third and 
further improved copy was done by Hugh Wilhams, 
the elegant artist, afterwards known as ' Greek 
Williams.' * Scott used to say, the oddest thmg of 
all was, that the engraving, founded on the labours 
of three draughtsmen, one of whom could not draw 
a straight line, and the two others had never seen 
the place meant to be represented, was nevertheless 



* Mr. Williams's Travels in Italy and Greece were published in 1820. 
70 



MINSTRELSY— LETTER FROM ELLIS 

pronounced by the natives of Liddesdale to give a 
very fail- notion of the ruins of Hermitage. 

The edition was exhausted in the course of the 
year, and the terms of pubhcation having been that 
Scott should have half the clear profits, his share 
was exactly £78, 10s.— a sum which certainly could 
not have repaid him for the actual expenditure 
incurred in the collection of his materials. Messrs. 
Cadell and Davies, however, complained, and pro- 
bably with good reason, that a premature advertise- 
ment of a 'second and improved edition' had 
rendered some copies of the first unsaleable. 

I shall transcribe the letter in which Mr. George 
Ellis acknowledges the receipt of his copy of the 
book : — 

' To Walter Scott, Esq., Advocate, Castle Street, 
Edinburgh. 

'Sunning Hill, March 5, 1802. 

' My Dear Sir, 

' The volumes are arrived, and I have been 
devouring them, not as a pig does a parcel of grains 
(by which simile you will judge that I must be 
brewing, as indeed I am), putting in its snout, 
shutting its eyes, and swallowing as fast as it can 
without consideration — ^but as a schoolboy does a 
piece of gingerbread ; nibbhng a little bit here, and 
a Httle bit there, smacking his lips, surveying the 
number of square inches which still remain for his 
gratification, endeavouring to look it into larger 
dimensions, and making at every mouthful a tacit 
vow to protract his enjoyment by restraining his 

71 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

appetite. Now, therefore — ^but no ! I must first 
assure you on the part of Mrs. E., that if you cannot, 
or will not come to England soon, she must gratify 
her curiosity and gratitude, by setting off for Scot- 
land, though at the risk of being tempted to pull 
caps with Mrs. Scott when she arrives at the end 
of her journey. Next, I must request you to convey 
to Mr. Leyden my very sincere acknowledgment for 
his part of the precious parcel. How truly vexatious 
that such a man should embark, not for the " fines 
Atticse," but for those of Asia ; that the genius of 
Scotland, instead of a poor Complaint, and an address 
in the style of "Navis, qu£e tibi creditum debes 
VirgUium — reddas incolumem, precor,' shovdd not 
interfere to prevent his loss. I wish to hope that 
we should, as Sterne says, "manage these matters 
better " in England ; but now, as regret is unavaiUng, 
to the main point of my letter. 

' You will not, of course, expect that I should as 
yet give you anything hke an opinion, as a critic, 
of your volumes ; first, because you have thrown 
into my throat a cate of such magnitude that 
Cerberus, who had three throats, could not have 
swallowed a third part of it without shutting his 
eyes; and secondly, because, although I have gone 
a little farther than George Nicol the bookseller, who 
cannot cease exclaiming, « What a beautiful book ! " 
and is distracted with jealousy of your Kelso Bulmer, 
yet, as I said before, I have not been able yet to 
digest a great deal of your "Border Minstrelsy." 
I have, however, taken such a survey as satisfies me 
that your plan is neither too comprehensive nor too 
72 



MINSTRELSY— LETTER FROM ELLIS 

contracted ; that the parts are properly distinct ; and 
that they are (to preserve the painter's metaphor) 
made out just as they ought to be. Your intro- 
ductory chapter is, I think, particularly good ; and 
I was much pleased, although a little surprised, at 
finding that it was made to serve as a recueil des 
pieces Jtistificatives to your view of the state of 
manners among your Borderers, which I venture to 
say will be more thumbed than any part of the 
volume. 

'You will easily believe that I cast many an 
anxious look for the annunciation of " Sir Tristrem," 
and will not be surprised that I was at first rather 
disappointed at not finding any thing like a solemn 
engagement to produce him to the world within 
some fixed and limited period. Upon reflection, 
however, I really think you have judged wisely, and 
that you have best promoted the interests of litera- 
ture, by sending, as the harbinger of the "Knight 
of Leonais," a collection which must form a parlour- 
window book in every house in Britain which 
contains a parlour and a window. I am happy to 
find my old favourites in their natural situation — 
indeed in the only situation which can enable a 
Southern reader to estimate their merits. You re- 
member what somebody said of the Prince de 
Condd's army during the wars of the Fronde, viz. — 
' that it would be a very fine army whenever it 
came of age.' Of the Murray s and Armstrongs 
of your Border Ballads, it might be said that they 
might grow, when the age of good taste should 
arrive, to a Glenfinlas or an Eve of St. John. 

72> 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Leyden's additional poems are also very beautiful. 
I meant, at setting out, a few simple words of 
thanks, and behold I have written a letter ; but 
no matter — I shall return to the charge after a 
more attentive perusal. Ever yours very faithfully, 

G. Ellis.' 

I might fiU many pages by transcribing similar 
letters from persons of acknowledged discernment in 
this branch of literature ; John Duke of Roxburgh 
is among the number, and he conveys also a compli- 
mentary message from the late Earl Spencer; Pinker- 
ton issues his decree of approbation as ex cathedrd ; 
Chalmers overflows with heartier praise; and even 
Joseph Ritson extols his presentation copy as ' the 
most valuable literary treasure in his possession.' 
There follows enough of female admiration to have 
been dangerous for another man; a score of fine 
ladies contend who shall be the most extravagant in 
encomium — and as many professed blue stockings 
come after ; among, or rather above the rest, Anna 
Seward, ' the Swan of Lichfield,' who laments that 
her 'bright luminary,' Darwin, does not survive 
to partake her raptures; — observes, that 'in the 
Border Ballads the first strong rays of the Delphic 
orb illuminate JeUon Graeme ' ; and concludes with 
a fact indisputable, but strangely expressed, viz. 
that ' the Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament, Cowden- 
knowes, etc. etc., climatically preceded the treasures 
of Burns, and the consummate Glenfinlas and Eve 
of St. John.' Scott felt as acutely as any malevolent 
critic the pedantic affectations of Miss Seward's 
74 



THE MINSTRELSY— MISS SEWARD 

epistolary style, but in her case sound sense as well 
as vigorous ability had unfortunately condescended 
to an absurd disguise; he looked below it, and was 
far from confounding her honest praise with the 
flat superlatives either of worldly parrots or weak 
enthusiasts. 



75 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 



CHAPTER XI 

Preparation of Volume III. of the Minstrelsy: and 
of Sir Tristrem : Correspondence with Miss 
Seward and Mr. Ellis : Ballad of the Reiver's 
Wedding: Commencement of the Lay of the 
La^t Minstrel: Visit to London and Oxford: 
Completion of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish 
Border. 

1802-1803 

The approbation with which the first two volumes 
of the Minstrelsy were received, stimulated Scott to 
fresh diligence in the preparation of a third ; while 
' Sir Tristrem ' — it being now settled that this 
romance should form a separate volume — was trans- 
mitted, without delay, to the printer at Kelso. As 
early as March 30th, 1802, Ballantyne, who had just 
returned from London, writes thus : — 

' To Walter Scott, Esq., Castle Street, Edinburgh. 

' Dear Sir, 

' By to-morrow's Fly I shall send the remaining 
materials for Minstrelsy, together with three sheets 
of Sir Tristrem. ... I shall ever think the printing 
the Scottish Minstrelsy one of the most fortunate 

76 



LETTERS TO MISS SEWARD— 1802 

circumstances of my life. I have gained, not lost by 
it, in a pecuniary light ; and the prospects it has been 
the means of opening to me, may advantageously 
influence my future destmy. I can never be suffi- 
ciently grateful for the interest you unceasingly take 
in my welfare. Your query respecting Edinburgh, 
I am yet at a loss to answer. To say truth, the 
expenses I have incurred in my resolution to acquire 
a character for elegant printing, whatever might be 
the result, cramp considerably my present exertions. 
A short time, I trust, wiU make me easier, and I 
shall then contemplate the road before me with a 
steady eye. One thing alone is clear — ^that Kelso 
cannot be my abiding place for aye ; sooner or later 
emigrate I must and will ; but, at all events, I must 
wait till my plumes are grown. I am, Dear Sir, 
your faithful and obliged J. B.' 

On learning that a third volume of the Minstrelsy 
was in progress. Miss Seward forwarded to the Editor 
' Rich Auld Willie's Farewell,' a Scotch ballad of 
her own manufacture, meaning, no doubt, to place it 
at his disposal, for the section of ' Imitations.' His 
answer, (dated Edinburgh, June 29, 1802), after 
many compliments to the Auld Willie, of which he 
made the use that had been intended, proceeds as 
foUows : — 

' I have some thoughts of attempting a Border 
baUad in the comic manner ; but I almost despair of 
bringing it well out. A certain Sir William Scott, 
from whom I am descended, was ill-advised enough 

77 



LIFE OF Sm WALTER SCOTT 

to plunder the estate of Sir Gideon Murray of 
Elibank, ancestor to the present Lord Elibank. The 
marauder was defeated, seized, and brought in fetters 
to the castle of EUbank, upon the Tweed. The 
Lady Murray (agreeably to the custom of all ladies 
in ancient tales) was seated on the battlements, and 
descried the return of her husband with his prisoners. 
She immediately enquired what he meant to do with 
the young Knight of Harden, which was the petit 
titre of Sir William Scott. " Hang the robber, 
assuredly," was the answer of Sir Gideon. " What !" 
answered the lady, "hang the handsome young knight 
of Harden, when I have three ill-favoured daughters 
unmarried ! No, no, Sir Gideon, we 11 force him to 
marry our Meg." Now tradition says, that Meg 
Murray was the ughest woman in the four counties, 
and that she was called, in the homely dialect of the 
time, meikle-mouthed Meg (I will not affront you by 
an explanation).* Sir Gideon, like a good husband 
and tender father, entered into his wife's sentiments, 
and proflFered to Sir William the alternative of 
becoming his son-in-law, or decorating with his 
carcase the Mndly gallows of Elibank. The lady 
was so very ugly, that Sir William, the handsomest 
man of his time, positively refused the honour of her 
hand. Three days were allowed him to make up his 
mind ; and it was not until he found one end of a 
rope made fast to his neck, and the other knitted to 
a sturdy oak bough, that his resolution gave way, 

* It is commonly said that all Meg's descendants have inherited some- 
thing of her characteristic feature. The Poet certainly was no exception 
to the rule. 

78 



LETTERS TO MISS SEWARD— 1802 

and he preferred an ugly wife to the literal noose. 
It is said, they were afterwards a very happy couple. 
She had a curious hand at pickling the beef which 
he stole ; and, marauder as he was, he had little 
reason to dread being twitted by the pawky gowk. 
This, either by its being perpetually told to me when 
young, or by a perverted taste for such anecdotes, 
has always struck me as a good subject for a comic 
ballad, and how happy should I be were Miss Seward 
to agree in opinion with me. 

' This little tale may serve for an introduction to 
some observations I have to offer upon our popular 
poetry. It wiU at least so far disclose your cor- 
respondent's weak side, as to induce you to make 
allowance for my mode of arguing. Much of its 
peculiar charm is indeed, I believe, to be attributed 
solely to its locality. A very commonplace and 
obvious epithet, when applied to a scene which we 
have been accustomed to view with pleasure, recalls 
to us not merely the local scenery, but a thousand 
little nameless associations, which we are unable to 
separate or to define. In some verses of that eccentric 
but admirable poet Coleridge, he talks of 

" An old rude tale that suited well 
The ruins wild and hoary." 

I think there are few who have not been in some 
degree touched with this local sympathy. Tell a 
peasant an ordinary tale of robbery and murder, and 
perhaps you may fail to interest him ; but to excite 
his terrors, you assure him it happened on the very 
heath he usually crosses, or to a man whose family 

79 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

he has known, and you rarely meet such a mere 
image of Humanity as remains entirely unmoved. 
I suspect it is pretty much the same with myself, 
and many of my countrymen, who are charmed by 
the effect of local description, and sometimes impute 
that effect to the poet, which is produced by the re- 
collections and associations which his verses excite. 
Why else did Sir PhiUp Sydney feel that the tale of 
Percy and Douglas moved him like the sound of a 
trumpet ? or why is it that a Swiss sickens at hearing 
the famous Ranz des Vaches, to which the native of 
any other country would have listened for a hundred 
days, without any other sensation than ennui? I 
fear our poetical taste is in general much more linked 
with our prejudices of birth, of education, and of 
habitual thinking, than our vanity will allow us to 
suppose ; and that, let the point of the poet's dart be 
as sharp as that of Cupid, it is the wings lent it by 
the fancy and prepossessions of the gentle reader 
which carry it to the mark. It may appear like 
great egotism to pretend to illustrate my position 
from the reception which the productions of so mere 
a ballad-monger as myself have met with from the 
pubhc ; but I cannot help observing that all Scotch- 
men prefer the Eve of St. John to Glenfinlas, and 
most of my English friends entertain precisely an 
opposite opinion. ... I have been writing this letter 
by a paragraph at a time for about a month, this 
being the season when we are most devoted to the 

" Drowsy bench and babbling hall." 

' I have the honour,' etc. etc. . , . 
80 




HOHBHT SHOHTREED. 



LETTERS TO MISS SEWARD— 1802 

Miss Seward, in her next letter, offers an apology 
for not having sooner begged Scott to place her 
name among the subscribers to his third volume. His 
answer is in these words : — 



'Lasswade, July, 1802. 

' I am very sorry to have left you under a mistake 
about my third volume. The truth is, that highly 
as I should feel myself flattered by the encourage- 
ment of Miss Seward's name, I cannot, in the present 
instance, avail myself of it, as the Ballads are not 
pubUshed by subscription. Providence having, I 
suppose, foreseen that my literary quaUfications, hke 
those of many more distinguished persons, might 
not, par hazard, support me exactly as I would like, 
allotted me a small patrimony, which, joined to my 
professional income, and my appointments in the 
characteristic office of Sheriff of Ettrick Forest, 
serves to render my hterary pursuits more a matter 
of amusement than an object of emolument. With 
this explanation, I hope you wiU honoiu* me by 
accepting the third volume as soon as published, 
which will be in the beginning of next year, and 
I also hope, that under the circumstances, you will 
hold me acquitted of the silly vanity of wishing to 
be thought a gentleman-sixjithox. 

' The ballad of The Reiver's Wedding is not yet 
written, but I have finished one of a tragic cast, 
founded upon the death of Regent Murray, who 
was shot in Linlithgow, by James Hamilton of 
Bothwellhaugh. The following verses contain the 

2 — F 8 1 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

catastrophe, as told by Hamilton himself to his chief 
and his kinsmen : — 

" With hackbut bent," etc. etc. 

***** 
***** 

' This Bothwellhaugh has occupied such an unwar- 
rantable proportion of my letter, that I have hardly 
time to tell you how much I join in your admiration 
of Tam o' Shanter, which I verily believe to be 
inimitable, both in the serious and ludicrous parts, 
as well as the singularly happy combination of both. 
I request Miss Seward to believe,' etc. 

The 'Reiver's Wedding' never was completed, 
but I have found two copies of its commencement, 
and I shall make no apologies for inserting here what 
seems to have been the second one. It will be seen 
that he had meant to mingle with Sir William's 
capture, Auld Wat's Foray of the Bassened Bull, 
and the Feast of Spurs ; and that, I know not for 
what reason, Lochwood, the ancient fortress of the 
Johnstones in Annandale, has been substituted for 
the real locality of his ancestor's drum-head Wedding 
Contract : — 

THE REIVER'S WEDDING. 

' O will ye hear a mirthful bourd ? 
Or will ye hear of courtesie ? 
Or will ye hear how a gallant lord 
Was wedded to a gay ladye .'' 
82 



THE REIVER'S WEDDING— 1802 

" Ca' out the kye/' quo the village herd, 

As he stood on the knowe, 
" Ca' this ane's nine and that ane's ten. 

And bauld Lord William's cow." 

" Ah ! by my sooth," quoth William then, 

" And stands it that way now. 
When knave and churl have nine and ten. 

That the Lord has but his cow ? 

" I swear by the light of the Michaelmas moon 

And the might of Mary high. 
And by the edge of my braidsword brown, 

They shall soon say Harden's kye." 

He took a bugle frae his side. 

With names carved o'er and o'er — 

Full many a chief of meikle pride. 
That Border bugle bore — * 

He blew a note baith sharp and hie. 
Till rock and water rang around — 

Three score of mosstroopers and three 
Have mounted at that bugle sound. 

The Michaelmas moon had entered then, 

And ere she wan the full. 
Ye might see by her light in Harden glen 

A bow o' kye and a bassened bull. 

And loud and loud in Harden tower 
The quaigh gaed round wi' meikle glee. 

For the English beef was brought in bower. 
And the English ale flowed merrilie. 

And mony a guest from Teviotside 

And Yarrow's Braes were there ; 
Was never a lord in Scotland wide 

That made more dainty fare. 



* This celebrated horn is still in the possession of Lord Polwarth. 

83 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

They ate, they laugh' d, they sang and quafTd, 

Till nought on board was seen, 
When knight and squire were boune to dine. 

But a spur of silver sheen. 

Lord William has ta'en his berry brown steed — 

A sore shent man was he ; 
" Wait ye, my guests, a little speed — 

Weel feasted ye shall be." 

He rode him down by Falsehope burn. 

His cousin dear to see. 
With him to take a riding turn — 

Wat-draw-the-sword was he. 

And when he came to Falsehope glen, 

Beneath the trysting tree. 
On the smooth green was carved plain,* 

"To Lochwood bound are we." 

" O if they be gane to dark Lochwood 

To drive the Warden's gear. 
Betwixt our names, I ween, there's feud: 

I '11 go and have my share : 

" For little reck I for Johnstone's feud. 

The Warden though he be." 
So Lord William is away to dark Lochwood, 

With riders barely three. 

The Warden's daughters in Lochwood sate, 

Were all both fair and gay. 
All save the Lady Margaret, 

And she was wan and wae. 



* 'At Linton, in Roxburghshire, there is a circle of stones surrounding 
a smooth plot of turf, called the Tryst, or place of appointment, which 
tradition avers to have been the rendezvous of the neighbouring warriors. 
The name of the leader was cut in the turf, and the arrangement of the 

letters announced to his followers the course which he had taken.' 

Introduction to the Minstrelsy, p. 185. 

84 



THE REIVER'S WEDDING— 1802 

The sister, Jean, had a full fair skin. 

And Grace was bauld and braw ; 
But the leal-fast heart her breast within 

It weel was worth them a'. 

Her father's pranked her sisters twa 

With meikle joy and pride ; 
But Margaret maun seek Dundrennan's wa' — 

She ne'er can be a bride. 

On spear and casque by gallants gent 

Her sisters' scarfs were borne. 
But never at tilt or tournament 

Were Margaret's colours worn. 

Her sisters rode to Thirlstane bower. 

But she was left at hame 
To wander round the gloomy tower, 

And sigh young Harden's name. 

" Of all the knights, the knight most fair 

From Yarrow to the Tyne," 
Soft sighed the maid, " is Harden's heir, 

But ne'er can he be mine ; 

" Of all the maids, the foulest maid 

From Teviot to the Dee, 
Ah ! " sighing sad, that lady said, 

" Can ne'er young Harden's be '' — 

She looked up the briery glen. 

And up the mossy brae. 
And she saw a score of her father's men 

Yclad in the Johnstone grey. 

O fast and fast they downward sped 

The moss and briers among. 
And in the midst the troopers led 

A shackled knight along.' 



85 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

As soon as the autumn vacation set Scott at 
liberty, he proceeded to the Borders with Leyden. 
' We have just concluded,' he tells EUis on his 
,retxirn to Edinburgh, ' an excursion of two or three 
weeks through my jurisdiction of Selkirkshire, where, 
in defiance of mountains, rivers, and bogs damp and 
dry, we have penetrated the very recesses of Ettrick 
Forest, to which district if I ever have the happiness 
of welcoming you, you will be convinced that I am 
truly the sheriff of the "cairn and the scaur." In 
the course of our grand tour, besides the risks of 
swamping and breaking our necks, we encountered 
the formidable hardships of sleeping upon peat- 
stacks, and eating mutton slain by no common 
butcher, but deprived of hfe by the judgment of 
God, as a coroner's inquest would express them- 
selves. I have, however, not only escaped safe " per 
varios casus, per tot discrimiua rerum," but returned 
loaded with the treasures of oral tradition. The 
principal result of our enquiries has been a complete 
and perfect copy of " Maitland with his Auld Berd 
Graie," referred to by Douglas in his " Palice of 
Honour," along with John the Reef and other 
popular characters, and celebrated also in the poems 
from the Maitland MS. You may guess the surprise 
of Leyden and myself when this was presented to us, 
copied down from the recitation of an old shepherd, 
by a country farmer, and with no greater corruptions 
than might be supposed to be introduced by the 
lapse of time, and the ignorance of reciters. I don't 
suppose it was originally composed later than the 
days of Blind Harry. Many of the old words are 
86 



JOSEPH RITSON— 1802 

retained, which neither the reciter nor the copyer 
understood. Such are the military engines sowies, 
springwalls (springalds), and many others. Though 
the poetical merit of this curiosity is not striking, 
yet it has an odd energy and dramatic effect.' 

A few weeks later, he thus answers Ellis's en- 
quiries as to the progress of the Sir Tristrem : — ' The 
worthy knight is still in embryo, though the whole 
poetry is printed. The fact is, that a second edition 
of the Minstrelsy has been demanded ipore suddenly 
than I expected, and has occupied my immediate 
attention. I have also ray third volume to compile 
and arrange ; for the Minstrelsy is now to be com- 
pleted altogether independent of the preux chevalier, 
who might hang heavy upon its skirts. I assure 
you my Continuation is mere doggrel, not poetry — 
it is argued in the same division with Thomas's 
ovsTi production, and therefore not worth sending. 
However, you may depend on having the whole long 
before pubhcation. I have derived much informa- 
tion from Turner: he combines the knowledge of 
the Welsh and northern authorities, and, in despite 
of a most detestable Gibbonism, his book is interest- 
ing.* I intend to study the Welsh triads before 
I finally commit myself on the subject of Border 
poetry. ... As for Mr. Ritson, he and I still con- 
tinue on decent terms ; and, in truth, he makes 
patte de velours ; but I dread I shall see " a whisker 
first and then a claw " stretched out against my 



* The first part of Mr. Sharon Turner's History of the Anglo-Saxons 
was published in 1799 ; the second in 1801. 

87 



LIFE OF Sm WALTER SCOTT 

unfortunate lucubrations. Ballantyne, the Kelso 
printer, who has a book of his in hand, groans in 
spirit over the pecuharities of his orthography, which, 
sooth to say, hath seldom been equalled since the 
days of Elphinstone, the ingenious author of the 
mode of speUing according to the pronunciation, 
which he aptly termed "Propriety ascertained in 
her Picture." I fear the remark of Festus to St. 
Paul might be more justly applied to this curious 
investigator of antiquity, and it is a pity such re- 
search should be rendered useless by the infirmities 
of his temper. I have lately had from him a copie 
of " Ye litel wee Mon," of which I think I can make 
some use. In return, I have sent him a sight of 
Auld Maitland, the original MS. If you are curious, 
I dare say you may easily see it. Indeed, I might 
easily send you a transcribed copy, — but I wish him 
to see it inpuris naturalibus.' 

Ritson had visited Lasswade in the course of this 
autumn, and his conduct had been such as to render 
the precaution here alluded to very proper in the 
case of one who, like Scott, was resolved to steer 
clear of the feuds and heartburnings that gave rise to 
such scandalous scenes among the other antiquaries 
of the day. Leyden met Ritson at the cottage, 
and, far from imitatmg his host's forbearance, took 
a pleasure of tormenting the half-mad pedant by 
every means in his power. Among other circum- 
stances, Scott delighted to detail the scene that 
occurred when his two uncouth allies first met at 
dinner. Well knowing Ritson's holy horror of all 
animal food, Leyden complained that the joint on 
88 



LASSWADE— 1802 

the table was overdone. ' Indeed, for that matter,' 
cried he, 'meat can never be too little done, and 
raw is best of all.' He sent to the kitchen accord- 
ingly for a plate of literally raw beef, and manfuUy 
ate it up, with no sauce but the exquisite ruefulness 
of the Pythagorean's glances. 

Mr. Robert Pierce Gillies, a gentleman of the 
Scotch bar, weU known, among other things, for 
some excellent translations from the German, was 
present at the cottage another day, when Ritson was 
in Scotland. He has described the whole scene in 
the second section of his ' Recollections of Sir Walter 
Scott,' — a set of papers in which many inaccurate 
statements occur, but which convey, on the whole, 
a lively impression of the persons introduced.^' ' In 
approaching the cottage,' he says, 'I was struck 
with the exceeding air of neatness that prevailed 
around. The hand of tasteful cultivation had been 
there, and all methods employed to convert an 
ordinary thatched cottage into a handsome and 
comfortable abode. The doorway was in an angle 
formed by the original old cabin and the additional 
rooms which had been built to it. In a moment I 
had passed through the lobby, and found' myself in 
the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Scott, and Mr. William 
Erskine. At this early period, Scott was more like 
the portrait, by Saxon, engraved for the first edition 
of the Lady of the Lake, than to any subsequent 
picture. He retained in features and form an 



* These papers appeared in Eraser's Magazine for September, 
November, and December 1835, and January 1836. 

89 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

impress of that elasticity and youthfiil vivacity, which 
he used to complain wore off after he was forty, and 
by his own account was exchanged for the plodding 
heaviness of an operose student. He had now, 
indeed, somewhat of a boyish gaiety of look, and 
in person was tall, slim, and extremely active. On 
my entrance, he was seated at a table near the 
window, and occupied in transcribing from an old 
MS. volume into his commonplace book. As to 
costume, he was carelessly attired in a widely-made 
shooting-dress, with a coloured handkerchief round 
his neck ; the very antithesis of style usually adopted 
either by student or barrister. "Hah!" he ex- 
claimed, " welcome, thrice welcome ! for we are just 
proposing to have lunch, and then a long, long walk 
through wood and wold, in which I am sure you will 
join us. But no man can thoroughly appreciate the 
pleasure of such a life who has not known what it 
is to rise spiritless in a morning, and daidle out half 
the day in the Parliament House, where we must 
all compear within another fortnight ; then to spend 
the rest of one's time in applying proofs to conde- 
scendences, and hauhng out papers to bamboozle 
judges, most of whom are daized enough already. 
What say you, Counsellor Erskine? Come — alia 
guerra — rouse, and say whether you are for a walk 
to-day." — " Certainly, in such fine weather I don't 
see what we can propose better. It is the last I 
shall see of the country this vacation." — " Nay, say 
not so, man ; we shall all be merry twice and once 
yet before the evil days arrive." — " I '11 teU you what 
I have thought of this half-hour : it is a plan of mine 
90 



LASSWADE— 1802 

to rent a cottage and a cabbage-garden — ^not here — 
but somewhere farther out of town, and never again, 
after this one session, to enter the Parliament House." 
— "And you'll ask Ritson, perhaps," said Scott, 
" to stay with you, and help to consume the cabbages. 
Rest assured we shall both sit on the bench one 
day ; but, heigho ! we shall both have become very 
old and philosophical by that time." — "Did you 
not expect Lewis here this morning ? " — " Lewis, I 
venture to say, is not up yet, for he dined at Dalkeith 
yesterday, and of course found the wine very good. 
Besides, you know, I have entrusted him with Finella 
till his own steed gets well of a sprain, and he could 
not join our walking excursion. — I see you are 
admiring that broken sword," he added, addressing 
me, " and your interest would increase if you knew 
how much labour was required to bring it into 
my possession. In order to grasp that mouldering 
weapon, I was obliged to drain the well at the Castle 
of Dunnottar. But it is time to set out ; and here 
is one friend " (addressing himself to a large dog) 
" who is very impatient to be in the field. He tells 
me he knows where to find a hare in the woods 
of Mavisbank. And here is another" (caressing a 
terrier), " who longs to have a battle with the weazels 
and water-rats, and the foumart that wons near the 
caves of Gorthy : so let us be off," ' 

Mr. Gillies tells us, that in the course of their walk 
to Rosslyn, Scott's foot slipped, as he was scrambling 
towards a cave on the edge of a precipitous bank, 
and that, 'had there been no trees in the way, he 
must have been killed, but midway he was stopped 

91 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

by a large root of hazel, when, instead of struggling, 
which would have made matters greatly worse, he 
seemed perfectly resigned to his fate, and slipped 
through the tangled thicket till he lay flat on the 
river's brink. He rose in an instant from his re- 
cumbent attitude, and with a hearty laugh called 
out, "Now, let me see who else will do the like." 
He scrambled up the chff with alacrity, and entered 
the cave, where we had a long dialogue.' 

Even after he was an old and hoary man, he con- 
tinually encountered such risks with the same reck- 
lessness. The extraordinary strength of his hands 
and arms was his great rehance in all such difficulties, 
and if he could see any thing to lay hold of, he was 
afraid of no leap, or rather hop, that came in his 
way. Mr. GiUies says, that when they drew near 
the famous chapel of Rosslyn, Erskine expressed a 
hope that they might, as habitual visitors, escape 
hearing the usual endless story of the silly old woman 
that showed the ruins ; but Scott answered, ' There 
is a pleasure in the song which none but the songstress 
knows, and by teUing her we know it all already, we 
should make the poor devil unhappy.' 

On their return to the cottage, Scott enquired for 
the learned cabbage-eater, meaning Ritson, who had 
been expected to dinner. 'Indeed,' answered his 
wife, 'you may be happy he is not here, he is so 
very disagreeable. Mr. Leyden, I believe, frightened 
him away.' It turned out that it was even so. 
When Ritson appeared, a round of cold beef was 
on the luncheon-table, and Mrs. Scott, forgetting his 
peculiar creed, offered him a slice. ' The antiquary, 
92 



RITSON—LEYDEN— ELLIS 

in his indignation, expressed himself in such out- 
rageous terms to the lady, that Leyden first tried 
to correct him by ridicule, and then, on the madman 
growing more violent, became angry in his turn, tQl 
at last he threatened, that if he were not silent, he 
would thraw his neck. Scott shook his head at this 
recital, which Leyden observing, grew vehement in 
his own justification. Scott said not a word in 
reply, but took up a large bunch of feathers fastened 
to a stick, denominated a duster , and shook it about 
the student's ears tiU he laughed — then changed the 
subject.' 

AU this is very characteristic of the parties. Scott's 
playful aversion to dispute was a trait in his mind 
and manners that could alone have enabled him to 
make use at one and the same time, and for the 
same purpose, of two such persons as Ritson and 
Leyden. 

To return to EUis. In answer to Scott's letter 
last quoted, he urged him to make Sir Tristrem 
volume fourth of the Minstrelsy. ' As to his hangmg 
heavy on hand,' says he, ' I admit, that as a separate 
pubUcation he may do so, but the Minstrelsy is now 
established as a library book, and in this bibUomaniac 
age, no one would think it perfect without the "preux 
chevalier, if you avow the said chevaher as your 
adopted son. Let him, at least, be printed in the 
same size and paper, and then I am persuaded our 
booksellers will do the rest fast enough, upon the 
credit of your reputation.' Scott replies (November), 
that it is now too late to alter the fate of Sir 
Tristrem. 'Longman, of Paternoster Row, has 

93 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

been down here in summer, and purchased the 
copyright of the Minstrelsy. Sir Tristrem is a 
separate property, but will be on the same scale 
in point of size.' 

The next letter introduces to EUis's personal ac- 
quaintance Leyden, who had by this time completed 
his medical studies, and taken his degree as a 
physician. In it Scott says, 'At length I write to 
you per favour of John Leyden. I presume Heber 
has made you sufficiently acquainted with this 
original (for he is a true one), and therefore I wiU 
trust to yom- own kindness, should an opportunity 
occur of doing him any service in furthering his 
Indian plans. You will readily judge, from con- 
versing with him, that with a very uncommon 
stock of acquired knowledge, he wants a good 
deal of another sort of knowledge — which is only 
to be gleaned from an early intercourse with 
polished society. But he dances his bear with 
a good confidence, and the bear itself is a very 
good-natured and well- conditioned animal. All 
his friends are much interested about him, as the 
qualities both of his heart and head are very un- 
common.' He adds — ' My third volume will appear 
as soon after the others as the despatch of the 
printers will admit. Some parts will, I think, 
interest you; particularly the preservation of the 
entire Auld Maitland by oral tradition, probably 
from the reign of Edward ii. or iii. As I have 
never met with such an instance, I must request you 
to enquire all about it of Leyden, who was with me 
when I received my first copy. In the third volume 
94 



ELLIS— LEYDEN 

I intend to publish Cadyow Castle, a historical sort 
of a ballad upon the death of the Regent Murray, 
and besides this, a long poem of my own. It will 
be a kind of romance of Border chivalry, in a light- 
horseman sort of stanza.' 

He appears to have sent a copy of Cadyow Castle 
by Leyden, whose reception at Mr. Ellis's villa, near 
Windsor, is thus described in the next letter of the 
correspondence : — ' Let me thank you,' says Ellis, 
' for your poem, which Mrs. E. has not received, and 
which, indeed, I could not help feeling glad, in the 
first instance (though we now begin to grow very 
impatient for it), that she did not receive. Leyden 
would not have been your Leyden if he had arrived 
like a careful citizen, with all his packages carefully 
docketed in his portmanteau. If on the point of 
leaving for many years, perhaps for ever, his country 
and the friends of his youth, he had not deferred to 
the last, and till it was too late, all that could be 
easily done, and that stupid people find time to do — 
if he had not arrived with aU his ideas perfectly 
bewildered — and tired to death, and sick — and with- 
out any settled plans for futurity, or any accurate 
recollection of the past — ^we should have felt much 
more disappointed than we were by the non-arrival 
of your poem, which he assured us he remembered 
to have left somewhere or other, and therefore felt 
very confident of recovering. In short, his whole 
air and countenance told us, " I am come to be one 
of your friends," and we immediately took him at 
his word.' 

By the 'romance of Border chivalry,' which was 

95 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

designed to form part of the third volume of the 
Minstrelsy, the reader is to understand the first 
draught of The Lay of the Last Minstrel ; and the 
author's description of it as being ' in a light-horse- 
man sort of stanza,' was probably suggested by the 
circumstances under which the greater part of that 
original draught was composed. He has told us, in 
his Introduction, of 1830, that the poem originated 
in a request of the young and lovely Countess of 
Dalkeith, that he would write a ballad on the legend 
of Gilpin Horner : that he began it at Lasswade, 
and read the opening stanzas, as soon as they were 
written, to his friends, Erskine and Cranstoim : that 
their reception of these was apparently so cold as to 
discourage him, and disgust him with what he had 
done ; but that finding, a few days afterwards, that 
the stanzas had nevertheless excited their curiosity, 
and haunted their memory, he was encouraged to 
resume the undertaking. The scene and date of this 
resumption I owe to the recollection of the then 
Cornet of the Edinburgh Light- Horse. While the 
troop were on permanent duty at Musselburgh, in 
the autumnal recess of 1802, the Quarter-Master, 
during a charge on Portobello sands, received a kick 
of a horse, which confined him for three days to his 
lodgings. Mr. Skene found him busy with his pen ; 
and he produced before these three days expired the 
first canto of the Lay, very nearly, if his friend's 
memory may be trusted, in the state in which it was 
ultimately pubhshed. That the whole poem was 
sketched and filled in with extraordinary rapidity, 
there can be no difficulty in believing. He himself 
96 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

says (in the Introduction of 1830), that after he 
had once got fairly into the vein, it proceeded at 
the rate of about a canto in a week. The Lay, 
however, like the Tristrem, soon outgrew the dimen- 
sions which he had originally contemplated; the 
design of including it in the third volume of the 
Minstrelsy was of course abandoned ; and it did not 
appear until nearly three years after that fortunate 
mishap on the beach of Portobello. 

To return to Scott's correspondence: — it shows 
that Elhs had, although involved at the time in 
serious family afflictions, exerted himself strenuously 
and effectively in behalf of Leyden ; a service which 
Scott acknowledges most warmly. His friend writes, 
too, at great length, about the completion of the 
Minstrelsy, urging, in particular, the propriety of 
prefixing to it a good map of the Scottish Border — 
' for, in truth,' he says, ' I have never been able to 
find even Ercildoune on any map in my possession.' 
The poet answers (January 30, 1803) — 'The idea 
of a map pleases me much, but there are two strong 
objections to its being prefixed to this edition. First, 
we shall be out in a month, within which time it 
would be difficult, I apprehend, for Mr. Arrowsmith, 
labouring under the disadvantages which I am about 
to mention, to complete the map. Secondly, you: 
are to know that I am an utter stranger to geometry, 
surveying, and aU such inflammatory branches of 
study, as Mrs. Malaprop calls them. My education 
was vmfortunately interrupted by a long indisposi- 
tion, which occasioned my residing for about two 
years in the country with a good maiden aunt, who 
2— G 97 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

permitted and encouraged me to rmi about the fields, 
as wild as any buck that ever fled from the face of 
man. Hence my geographical knowledge is merely 
practical, and though I think that in the South 
country, " I could be a guide worth ony twa that 
may in Liddesdale be found," yet I believe Hobby 
Noble, or Kinmont Willie, would beat me at laying 
down a map. I have, however, sense enough to see 
that our mode of executing maps in general is any 
thing but perfect. The couhtry is most inaccurately 
defined, and had your General (Wade) marched 
through Scotland by the assistance of Ainshe's map, 
his flying artillery would soon have stuck fast among 
our morasses, and his horse broke their knees among 
our cairns. Your system of a bird's-eye view is cer- 
tainly the true principle.' He goes on to mention 
some better maps than EUis seemed to have con- 
sxilted, and to inform him where he may discover 
Ercildoune, under its modern form of Earlston, 
upon the river Leader ; and concludes, ' the map 
then must be deferred until the third edition, about 
which, I suppose, Longman thinks courageously.' He 
then adds — ' I am almost glad Cadyow Castle is mis- 
carried, as I have rather lost conceit of it at present, 
being engaged on what I think will be a more gener- 
ally interesting legend. I have called it the " Lay 
of the Last Minstrel," and put it in the mouth of an 
old bard, who is supposed to have survived all his 
brethren, and to have lived down to 1690. The 
thing itself wiU be very long, but I would willingly 
have sent you the Introduction, had you been stiU in 
possession of your senatorial privilege ; — but double 
98 



VERSES BY LEYDEN— JANUARY 1808 

postage would be a strange innovation on the estab- 
lished price of ballads, which have always sold at the 
easy rate of one halfpenny.' 

I must now give part of a letter in which Leyden 
recurs to the kindness, and sketches the person and 
manners of George Ellis, in a highly characteristic 
fashion. He says to Scott (January 25, 1803) — 
' You were, no doubt, surprised, my dear sir, that I 
gave you so little information about my movements ; 
but it is only this day I have been able to speak of 
them with any precision. Such is the tardiness in 
every thing connected with the India House, that a 
person who is present in the character of spectator is 
quite amazed ; but if we consider it as the centre of 
a vast commercial concern, in comparison of which 
Tyre and Sidon, and the Great Carthage itself, must 
inevitably dwindle into huckster shops, we are in- 
duced to think of them with more patience. Even 
yet I cannot answer you exactly — ^being very uncer- 
tain whether I am to sail on the 18th of next month, 
or the 28th. 



' Now shal i telen to ye, i wis. 
Of that kind Squeyere Ellis, 

That wonnen in this cite ; 
Courtess he is, by God almizt ! 
That he nis nought yraaked knizt 
It is the more pitie. 



2 



He konnen better eche glewe 



Than I konnen to ye shewe, 
Baith maist and least. 



99 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

So wel he wirketh in eche thewe 
That where he commen, I tell ye trewe. 
He is ane welcome guest. 

3 
His eyen graye as glas ben, 
And his looks ben alto kene, 

Loveliche to paramour. 
Brown as acorn ben his faxe, 
His face is thin as bettel axe 

That dealeth dintis doure. 



His wit ben both keene and sharpe, 
To knizt or dame that carll can carpe 

Either in hall or bower ; 
And had I not this squeyere yfonde, 
I had been at the se-gronde. 

Which had been great doloure. 

5 
In him Ich linden non other euil. 
Save that his nostril so doth snivel, 

It is not myche my choice. 
But than his wit ben so perquire. 
That thai who can his carp3mge here 

Thai thynke not of his voice. 

6 
To speake not of his gentel dame 
Ich wis it war bothe sin and shame 

Lede is not to layne ; 
She is a ladye of sich pryce. 
To leven in that dame's service 

Meni war ful fain. 

7 
Hir wit is ful kene and queynt, 
And hir stature smale and gent, 
Semeleche to be scene ; 
lOO 



LETTER FROM LEYDEN— APRIL 1803 

Armes, hondes, and fingres smale. 
Of pearl beth eche fingre nale ; 
She mizt be ferys Quene. 



That lady she wil giv a scarf 
To him that wold ykillen a dwarf 

Churle of Paynim kinde ; 
That dwarf he is so fell of mode 
Tho ye shold drynk his hert blode, 

Gode wold ze never finde. 

9 
That dwarf he ben beardless and bare 
And weaselblowen ben al his hair^ 

Like an ympe or elfe ; 
And in this world beth al and hale 
Ben nothynge that he loveth an dele 

Safe his owen selfe.' . . . 

The fourth of these verses refers to the loss of 
the Hindostan, in which ship Leyden, but for Mr. 
Ellis's interference, must have sailed, and which 
foundered in the Channel. The dwarf is, of course, 
Ritson. 

After various letters of the same kind, I find one, 
dated Isle of Wight, April the 1st (1803), the 
morning before Leyden finally sailed. ' I have been 
two days on board,' he writes, ' and you may con- 
ceive what an excellent change I made from the 
politest society of London to the brutish skippers 
of Portsmouth. Our crew consists of a very motley 
party ; but there are some of them very ingenious, 
and Robert Smith, Sydney's brother, is himself a 
host. He is almost the most powerful man I have 

lOI 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

met with. My money concerns I shall consider 
you as trustee of; and all remittances, as weU as 
dividends from Longman, will be to your direction. 
These, I hope, we shall soon be able to adjust very 
accurately. Money may be paid, but kindness never. 
Assure yovu- excellent Charlotte, whom I shall ever 
recollect with affection and esteem, how much I 
regret that I did not see her before my departure, 
and say a thousand pretty things, for which my 
mind is too much agitated, being in the situation 
of Coleridge's devil and his grannam, " expecting 
and hoping the trumpet to blow." * And now, my 
dear Scott, adieu. Think of me with indulgence, 
and be certain, that wherever, and in whatever 
situation, John Leyden is, his heart is unchanged 
by place, and his soul by time.' 

This letter was received by Scott, not in Edin- 
burgh, but in London. He had hurried up to town 
as soon as the Court of Session rose for the spring 
vacation, in hopes of seeing his friend once more 
before he left England ; but he came too late. He 
had, however, done his part: he had sent Leyden 
£50, through Messrs. Longman, a week before; 
and on the back of that bill there is the following 
memorandum: — 'Dr. Leyden's total debt to me 
£150 ; he also owes £50 to my uncle.' 

He thus writes to Ballantyne, on the 21st April 
1803 :— ' I have to thank you for the accuracy with 
which the Minstrelsy is thrown off. Longman and 
Rees are delighted with the printing. Be so good 



* This is a line of Coleridge's ^eu d' esprit on Mackintosh. 
102 



LONDON— APRIL 1803 

as to disperse the following presentation copies, with 
• From the Editor ' on each : — 

James Hogg, Ettrick House, care of Mr. Oliver, 
Hawick — by the carrier — a complete set. 

Thomas Scott (my brother), ditto. 

Colin Mackenzie, Esq., Prince's Street, third 
volume only. 

Mrs. Scott, George Street, ditto. 

Dr. Rutherford, York Place, ditto. 

Captain Scott, Rosebank, ditto. 

I mean all these to be ordinary paper. Send one 
set fine paper to Dalkeith House, addressed to the 
Duchess ; another, by the Inverary carrier, to Lady 
Charlotte Campbell; the remaining ten, fine paper, 
with any of vol. iii. which may be on fine paper, 
to be sent to me by sea. I think they will give you 
some eclat here, where printing is so much valued. 
I have settled about printing an edition of the Lay, 
8vo, with vignettes, provided I can get a draughts- 
man whom I think well of. We may throw oflF a 
few superb in quarto. To the Minstrelsy I mean 
this note to be added, by way of advertisement : — 
" In the press, and wiU speedily be published. The 
Lay of the Last Minstrel, by Walter Scott, Esq., 
Editor of the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border. 
Also, Sir Tristrem, a Metrical Romance, by Thomas 
of Ercildoime, called the Rhymer, edited from an 
ancient MS., with an Introduction and Notes, by 
Walter Scott, Esq." Will you cause such a thing 
to be appended in your own way and fashion ? ' 
This letter is dated 'No. 15, Piccadilly West,' 

103 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

— he and Mrs. Scott being there domesticated under 
the roof of the late M. Charles Dumergue, a man 
of very superior abilities and of excellent education, 
well known as surgeon-dentist to the royal family — 
who had been intimately acquainted with the Char- 
pentiers in his own early life in France, and had 
warmly befriended Mrs. Scott's mother on her first 
arrival in England. M. Dumergue's house was, 
throughout the whole period of the emigration, 
Uberally opened to the exiles of his native country ; 
nor did some of the noblest of those unfortunate 
refugees scruple to make a free use of his purse, as 
well as of his hospitahty. Here Scott met much 
highly interesting French society, and until a child 
of his own was established in London, he never 
thought of taking up his abode any where else, as 
often as he had occasion to be in town. 

The letter is addressed to ' Mr. James Ballantyne, 
printer, Abbey-hiU, Edinburgh'; which shows that 
before the third volume of the Minstrelsy passed 
through the press, the migration recommended two 
years earlier had at length taken place. ' It was 
about the end of 1802,' says Ballantyne in his Memo- 
randum, ' that I closed with a plan so congenial to 
my wishes. I removed, bag and baggage, to Edin- 
burgh, finding accommodation for two presses, and 
a proof one, in the precincts of Holyrood-house, then 
deriving new lustre and interest from the recent 
arrival of the royal exiles of France. In these 
obscure premises some of the most beautiful pro- 
ductions of what we called The Border Press were 
printed.' The Memorandum states, that Scott having 
104 



LONDON— APRIL 1803 

renewed his hint as to pecuniary assistance, so soon 
as the printer found his finances straitened, ' a hberal 
loan was advanced accordingly.' Of course Scott's 
interest was constantly exerted in procuring employ- 
ment, both legal and literary, for his friend's types. 

Heber, and Mackintosh then at the height of his 
reputation as a conversationist, and daily advancing 
also at the bar, had been ready to welcome Scott in 
town as old friends; and Rogers, William Stewart 
Rose, and several other men of Uterary eminence, 
were at the same time added to the list of his 
acquaintance. His principal object, however — having 
missed Leyden — was to peruse and make extracts 
from some MSS. in the library of John Duke of 
Roxburghe, for the illustration of the Tristrem ; and 
he derived no small assistance in other researches 
of the like kind from the collections which the 
indefatigable and obliging Douce placed at his dis- 
posal. Having completed these labours, he and Mrs. 
Scott went, with Heber and Douce, to Sunninghill, 
where they spent a happy week, and Mr. and Mrs. 
EUis heard the first two or three cantos of the 
Lay of the Last Minstrel read under an old oak in 
Windsor Forest. 

I should not omit to say, that Scott was attended 
on this trip by a very large aAd fine bull-terrier, by 
name Camp, and that Camp's master, and mistress 
too, were delighted by finding that the Ellises cordi- 
ally sympathized in their fondness for this animal, 
and indeed for all his race. At parting, Scott pro- 
mised to send one of Camp's progeny, in the course 
of the season, to SunninghiU. 

105 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

From thence they proceeded to Oxford, accom- 
panied by Heber ; and it was on this occasion, as I 
believe, that Scott first saw his friend's brother, 
Reginald, in afterdays the apostolic Bishop of Cal- 
cutta. He had just been declared the successful 
competitor for that year's poetical prize, and read to 
Scott at breakfast, in Brazen Nose College, the MS. 
of his ' Palestine.' Scott observed that, in the verses 
on Solomon's Temple, one striking circumstance had 
escaped him, namely, that no tools were used in its 
erection. Reginald retired for a few minutes to the 
comer of the room, and returned with the beautiful 
lines, — 

' No hammer fell, no ponderous axes rung, 
Like some tall palm the mystic fabric sprung. 
Majestic silence,' etc.* 

After inspecting the University and Blenheim, 
under the guidance of the Hebers, Scott returned to 
London, as appears from the following letter to Miss 
Seward, who had been writing to him on the subject 
of her projected biography of Dr. Darwin. The 
conclusion and date are lost : — 

' I have been for about a fortnight in this huge 
and busthng metropolis, when I am agreeably sur- 
prised by a packet from Edinburgh, containing Miss 
Seward's letter. I am truly happy ^t the informa- 
tion it communicates respecting the hfe of Dr. 
Darwin, who could not have wished his fame and 
character intrusted to a pen more capable of doing 



♦ See ' Life of Bishop Heber^ by his Widow/ edition 1830, vol. i. 
p. 30. 

1 06 



LONDON AND OXFORD— MAY 1803 

them ample, and, above all, discriminating justice. 
Biography, the most interesting perhaps of every 
species of composition, loses all its interest with me, 
when the shades and Hghts of the principal character 
are not accurately and faithfully detailed ; nor have 
I much patience with such exaggerated daubing as 
Mr. Hayley has bestowed upon poor Cowper. I 
can no more sympathize with a mere eulogist, than 
I can with a ranting hero upon the stage; and it 
unfortunately happens that some of our disrespect is 
apt, rather unjustly, to be transferred to the subject 
of the panegyric in the one case, and to poor Cato 
in the other. Unapprehensive that even friendship 
can bias Miss Seward's duty to the public, I shall 
wait most anxiously for the volume her kindness has 
promised me. 

'As for my third volume, it was very nearly 
printed when I left Edinburgh, and must, I think, 
be ready for publication in about a fortnight, when 
it will have the honour of traveUing to Lichfield. 
I doubt you will find but little amusement in it, as 
there are a good many old ballads, particularly those 
of ' the Covenanters,' which, in point of composition, 
are mere drivelUng trash. They are, however, 
curious in an historical point of view, and have 
enabled me to slide in a number of notes about that 
dark and bloody period of Scottish history. There 
is a vast convenience to an editor in a tale upon 
which, without the formaUty of adapting the notes 
very precisely to the shape and form of the ballad, 
he may hang on a set like a herald's coat without 
sleeves, saving himself the trouble of taking measure, 

107 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and sending forth the tale of ancient time, ready 
equipped from the Monmouth Street warehouse of a 
commonplace book. Cadyow Castle is to appear in 
volume third. 

' I proceeded thus far about three weeks ago, 

and shame to tell, have left my epistle unfinished 
ever since ; yet I have not been wholly idle, about a 
fortnight of that period having been employed as 
much to my satisfaction as any similar space of time 
during my life. I was the first week of that fortnight, 
with my invaluable friend George Ellis, and spent 
the second week at Oxford, which I visited for the 
first time. I was peculiarly fortunate in having for 
my patron at Oxford, Mr. Heber, a particular friend 
of mine, who is intimately acquainted with all, both 
animate and inanimate, that is worth knowing at 
Oxford. The time, though as much as I could 
possibly spare, has, I find, been too short to convey 
to me separate and distinct ideas of all the variety of 
wonders which I saw. My memory only at present 
furnishes a grand but indistinct picture of towers, 
and chapels, and oriels, and vaulted halls, and libra- 
ries, and paintings. I hope, in a little time, my 
ideas will develope themselves a little more distinctly, 
otherwise I shall have profited little by my tour. 
I was much flattered by the kind reception and 
notice I met with from some of the most distin- 
guished inhabitants of the halls of Isis, which was 
more than such a truant to the classic page as my- 
self was entitled to expect at the source of classic 
learning. 

' On my return, I find an apologetic letter from 
1 08 



LETTER TO ELLIS— MAY 1803 

my printer, saying the third volume will be de- 
spatched in a day or two. There has been, it seems, 
a meeting among the printers' devils; also among 
the paper-makers. I never heard of authors striking 
work, as the mechanics call it, until their masters 
the booksellers should increase their pay ; but if such 
a combination could take place, the revolt would 
now be general in all branches of literary labour. 
How much sincere satisfaction would it give me 
could I conclude this letter (as I once hoped), by 
saying I should visit Lichfield, and pay my personal 
respects to my invaluable correspondent in my way 
northwards; but as circumstances render this im- 
possible, I shall depute the poetry of the olden time 
in the editor's stead. My " Romance " is not yet 
finished. I prefer it much to any thing I have done 
of the kind.' . . . 

He was in Edinburgh by the middle of May ; and 
thus returns to his view of Oxford in a letter to his 
fi-iend at SunninghUl : — 

' To George Ellis, Esq., etc. etc. 

' Edinburgh, 25th May 1803. 

' My Dear Ellis, 

' . . . I was equally delighted with that vener- 
able seat of learning, and flattered by the polite 
attention of Heber's friends. I should have been 
enchanted to have spent a couple of months among 
the curious libraries. What stores must be reserved 
for some painful student to bring forward to the 
public ! Under the guidance and patronage of our 

109 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

good Heber, I saw many of the literary men of his 
Alma Mater, and found matters infinitely more active 
in every department than I had the least previous 
idea of. Since I returned home, my time has been 
chiefly occupied in professional labours ; my truant 
days spent in London having thrown me a little 
behind ; but now, I hope, I shall find spare moments 
to resume Sir Tristrem — and the Lay, which has 
acquired additional value in my estimation from its 
pleasing you. How often do Charlotte and I think 
of the httle paradise at Sunninghill and its kind in- 
habitants; and how do we regret, like Dives, the 
gulf which is placed betwixt us and friends, with 
whom it would give us such pleasure to spend much 
of our time. It is one of the vilest attributes of the 
best of all possible worlds, that it contrives to split 
and separate and subdivide every thing hke con- 
genial pursuits and habits, for the paltry purpose, one 
would think, of diversifying every Uttle spot with a 
share of its various productions. I don't know why 
the human and vegetable departments should differ so 
excessively. Oaks and beeches, and ashes and elms, 
not to mention cabbages and turnips, are usually 
arrayed en masse ; but where do we meet a town of 
antiquaries, a village of poets, or a hamlet of philo- 
sophers ? But, instead of fruitless lamentations, we 
sincerely hope Mrs. ElUs and you will imrivet your- 
selves from your forest, and see how the hardy blasts 
of our mountains will suit you for a change of 
climate. . . . The new edition of " Minstrelsy " is 
published here, but not in London as yet, owing 
to the embargo on our shipping. An invasion is 
no 



THE MINSTRELSY COMPLETED— 1808 

expected from Flushing, and no measures of any 
kind taken to prevent or repel it. Yoiu:s very 
faithfully, W. Scott.' 

This letter enclosed a sheet of extracts from For- 
dun,.in Scott's handwriting; the subject being the 
traditional marriage of one of the old Counts of 
Anjou with a female demon, by which the Scotch 
chronicler accounts for all the crimes and misfor- 
tunes of the English Plantagenets. 

Messrs, Longman's new edition of the fii-st two 
volumes of the Minstrelsy consisted of 1000 copies 
— of volume third there were 1500. A complete 
edition of 1250 copies followed in 1806 ; a fourth, 
also of 1250, in 1810 ; a fifth, of 1500, in 1812 ; a 
sixth, of 500, in 1820 ; and since then it has been 
incorporated in various successive editions of Scott's 
Collected Poetry — to the extent of at least 15,000 
copies more. Of the Continental and American edi- 
tions I can say nothing, except that they have been 
very numerous. The book was soon translated into 
German, Danish, and Swedish ; and, the structure of 
those languages being very favourable to the under- 
taking, the Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border has 
thus become widely naturalized among nations them- 
selves rich in similar treasures of legendary lore. Of 
the extraordinary accuracy and felicity of the German 
version of Schubart, Scott has given some specimens 
in the last edition which he himself superintended — 
that of 1830. 

He speaks, in the Essay to which I have referred, 
as if the first reception of the Minstrelsy on the 

III 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

south of the Tweed had been cold. ' The curiosity 
of the English,' he says, ' was not much awakened 
by poems in the rude garb of antiquity, accompanied 
with notes referring to the obscure feuds of bar- 
barous clans, of whose very names civiUzed history 
was ignorant.' In writing those beautiful Introduc- 
tions of 1830, however, Scott, as I have already had 
occasion to hint, trusted entirely to his recollection 
of days long since gone by, and he has accordingly 
let fall many statements, which we must take with 
some allowance. His impressions as to the reception 
of the Minstrelsy were different, when, writing to his 
brother-in-law, Charles Carpenter, on the 3d March 
1803, for the purpose of introducing Leyden, he 
said — ' I have contrived to turn a very slender portion 
of literary talents to some account, by a publica- 
tion of the poetical antiquities of the Border, where 
the old people had preserved many ballads descrip- 
tive of the manners of the country during the wars 
with England. This trifling collection was so well 
received by a discerning public, that, after receiving 
about £100 profit for the first edition, which my 
vanity cannot omit informing you went off in six 
months, I have sold the copjrright for £500 more.' 
This is not the language of disappointment; and 
though the edition of 1803 did not move off quite so 
rapidly as the first, and the work did not perhaps 
attract much notice beyond the more cultivated 
students of literatxire, until the Editor's own genius 
blazed out in full splendour in the Lay, and thus 
lent general interest to whatever was connected with 
his name, I suspect there never was much groimd 

112 




JOHN" CLERK OR SLDIN.PHS 

PAr[J'rt;ji BY J.-iTlL^ SAXON 



MINSTRELSY OF THE BORDER 

for accusing the English public of regarding the 
Minstrelsy with more coldness than the Scotch — ^the 
population of the Border districts themselves being, 
of course, excepted. Had the sale of the original 
edition been chiefly Scotch, I doubt whether Messrs. 
Longman would have so readily offered £500, in 
those days of the trade a large sum, for the second. 
Scott had become habituated, long before 1830, to a 
scale of bookselling transactions, measured by which 
the largest editions and copy-monies of his own early 
days appeared insignificant ; but the evidence seems 
complete that he was well contented at the time. 

He certainly had every reason to be so as to the 
impression which the Minstrelsy made on the minds 
of those entitled to think for themselves upon such a 
subject. The ancient ballads in his collection, which 
had never been printed at aU before, were in number 
forty-three ; and of the others — most of which were 
in fact all but new to the modem reader — it is 
little to say that his editions were superior in all 
respects to those that had preceded them. He had, 
I firmly believe, interpolated hardly a line or even 
an epithet of his own ; but his diligent zeal had put 
him in possession of a variety of copies in different 
stages of preservation ; and to the task of selecting a 
standard text among such a diversity of materials, 
he brought a knowledge of old manners and phrase- 
ology, and a manly simplicity of taste, such as had 
never before been united in the person of a poetical 
antiquary. From among a hundred corruptions he 
seized, with instinctive tact, the primitive diction 
and imagery ; and produced strains in which the 

2— H 113 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

unbroken energy of half-civilized ages, their stem 
and deep passions, their daring adventures and cruel 
tragedies, and even their rude wild humour, are 
reflected with almost the brightness of a Homeric 
mirror, interrupted by hardly a blot of what deserves 
to be called vulgarity, and totally free from any ad- 
mixture of artificial sentimentalism. As a picture 
of manners, the Scottish Minstrelsy is not surpassed, 
if equalled, by any similar body of poetry preserved 
in any other country ; and it unquestionably owes its 
superiority in this respect over Percy's ReUques, to 
the Editor's conscientious fidelity, on the one hand, 
which prevented the introduction of any thing new 
— ^to his pure taste, on the other, in the balancing of 
discordant recitations. His introductory essays and 
notes teemed with curious knowledge, not hastily 
grasped for the occasion, but gradually gleaned and 
sifted by the patient labour of years, and presented 
with an easy, unaffected propriety and elegance of 
arrangement and expression, which it may be doubted 
if he ever materially surpassed in the happiest of 
his imaginative narrations. I well remember, when 
Waverley was a new book, and all the world were 
puzzling themselves about its authorship, to- have 
heard the Poet of ' the Isle of Palms ' exclaim im- 
patiently — ' I wonder what aU these people are per- 
plexing themselves with: have they forgotten the 
prose of the Minstrelsy?' Even had the Editor 
inserted none of his own verse, the work would have 
contained enough, and more than enough, to found 
a lasting and graceftil reputation. 

It is not to be denied, however, that the Minstrelsy 
114 



MINSTRELSY OF THE BORDER 

of the Scottish Border has derived a very large 
accession of interest from the subsequent career of 
its Editor. One of the critics of that day said that 
the book contained ' the elements of a hundred his- 
torical romances'; — and this critic was a prophetic 
one. No person who has not gone through its 
volumes for the express purpose of comparing their 
contents with his great original works, can have 
formed a conception of the endless variety of inci- 
dents and images now expanded and emblazoned by 
his mature art, of which the first hints may be found 
either in the text of those primitive ballads, or in 
the notes, which the happy rambles of his youth 
had gathered together for their illustration. In the 
edition of the Minstrelsy published since his death, 
not a few such instances are pointed out ; but the 
list might have been extended far beyond the limits 
which such an addition allowed. The taste and 
fancy of Scott appear to have been formed as early 
as his moral character ; and he had, before he passed 
the threshold of authorship, assembled about him, 
in the uncalculating delight of native enthusiasm, 
almost aU the materials on which his genius was 
destined to be employed for the gratification and 
instruction of the world. 



115 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 



CHAPTER XII 

Contributions to the Edinburgh Review: Progress 
of the Tristrem: and of the Lay of the Last 
Minstrel: Visit of Wordsworth: Publication 
of 'Sir Tristrem.' 

1803-1804 

Shortly after the complete ' Minstrelsy ' issued from 
the press, Scott made his first appearance as a re- 
viewer. The Edinburgh Review had been com- 
menced in October 1802, under the superintendence 
of the Rev. Sydney Smith, with whom, during his 
short residence in Scotland, he had lived on terms 
of great kindness and familiarity. Mr. Smith soon 
resigned the editorship to Mr. Jeflfrey, who had by 
this time been for several years among the most 
valued of Scott's friends and companions at the bar ; 
and, the new journal being far from committing 
itself to violent politics at the outset, he appreciated 
the brilliant talents regularly engaged in it far too 
highly not to be well pleased with the opportunity 
of occasionally exercising his pen in its service. His 
first contribution was an article on Southey's Amadis 
of Gaul, included in the number for October 1803. 
Another, on Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, 
ii6 



EDINBURGH REVIEW— 1808-4 

appeared in the same number : — a third, on Godwin's 
Life of Chaucer; a fourth, on Ellis's Specimens of 
Ancient EngUsh Poetry; and a fifth, on the Life 
and Works of Chatterton, followed in the course 
of 1804.^^ 

During the summer of 1803, however, his chief 
literary labour was still on the Tristrem ; and I shall 
presently give some further extracts from his letters 
to Ellis, which will amply illustrate the spu-it in 
which he continued his researches about the Seer 
of Ercildoune, and the interruptions which these 
owed to the prevalent alarm of French invasion. 
Both as Quartermaster of the Edinburgh Light- 
Horse, and as Sheriff of The Forest, he had a full 
share of responsibility in the warhke arrangements 
to which the authorities of Scotland had at length 
been roused ; nor were the duties of his two offices 
considered as strictly compatible by Francis Lord 
Napier, then Lord-Lieutenant of Selkirkshire ; for I 
find several letters in which his Lordship complains 
that the incessant drills and musters of Musselburgh 
and Portobello prevented the Sheriff from attending 
coimty meetings held at Selkirk in the course of 
this summer and autumn, for the purpose of organ- 
izing the trained bands of the Forest, on a scale 
hitherto unattempted. Lord Napier strongly urges 
the propriety of his resigning his connexion with the 
Edinburgh troop, and fixing his summer residence 



* Scott's contributions to our periodical literature have been, with 
some trivial exceptions, included in the recent collection of his Mis- 
cellaneous Prose Writings. 

117 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

somewhere within the limits of his proper jurisdic- 
tion ; nay, he goes so far as to hint, that if these 
suggestions should be neglected, it must be his duty 
to state the case to the Government, Scott could 
not be induced (least of aU by a threat), while the 
fears of invasion still prevailed, to resign his place 
among his old companions of ' the voluntary band ' ; 
but he seems to have presently acquiesced in the 
propriety of the Lord-Lieutenant's advice respecting 
a removal from Lasswade to Ettrick Forest. 

The following extract is from a letter written at 
Musselburgh during this summer or autumn : — 

' Miss Seward's acceptable favour reaches me in a 
place, and at a time, of great bustle, as the corps of 
voluntary cavalry to which I belong is quartered for 
a short time in this village, for the sake of drill- 
ing and discipline. Nevertheless, had your letter 
announced the name of the gentleman who took the 
trouble of forwarding it, I would have made it my 
business to find him out, and to prevail on him, if 
possible, to spend a day or two with us in quarters. 
We are here assuming a very military appearance. 
Three regiments of mUitia, with a formidable park 
of artillery, are encamped just by us. The Edin- 
burgh troop, to which I have the honour to be 
Quartermaster, consists entirely of young gentlemen 
of family, and is, of course, admirably well moimted 
and armed. There are other four troops in the regi- 
ment, consisting of yeomanry, whose iron faces and 
muscular forms announce the hardness of the climate 
against which they wr^tle, and the powers which 
nature has given them to contend with and subdue 
ii8 



MUSSELBURGH— 1808 

it. These corps have been easily raised in Scotland, 
the farmers being in general a high-spirited race of 
men, fond of active exercises, and patient of hard- 
ship and fatigue. For myself, I must own that to 
one who has, hke myself, la Ute un pen exaltee, the 
" pomp and circumstance of war " gives, for a time, 
a very poignant and pleasing sensation. The im- 
posing appearance of cavalry, in particular, and the 
rush which marks their onset, appear to me to par- 
take highly of the subhme. Perhaps I am the more 
attached to this sort of sport of swords, because my 
health requires much active exercise, and a lameness 
contracted in childhood renders it inconvenient for 
me to take it otherwise than on horseback. I have, 
too, a hereditary attachment to the animal — not, I 
flatter myself, of the common jockey cast, but because 
I regard him as the kindest and most generous of 
the subordinate tribes, I hardly even except the 
dogs; at least they are usually so much better treated, 
that compassion for the steed should be thrown into 
the scale when we weigh their comparative merits. 
My wife (a foreigner) never sees a horse iU-used 
without asking what that poor horse has done in his 
state of pre-existence ? I would fain hope they 
have been carters or hackney-coachmen, and are only 
experiencing a retort of the ill-usage they have 
formerly inflicted. What think you ? ' 

It appears that Miss Seward had sent Scott some 
obscure magazine criticism on his 'Minstrelsy,' in 
which the censor had condemned some phrase as 
naturally suggesting a low idea. The lady's letter 
not having been preserved, I cannot explain farther 

119 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the sequel of that from which I have been quoting. 
Scott says, however — 

' I am infinitely amused with your sagacious critic. 
God wot, I have often admired the vulgar subtlety 
of such minds as can with a depraved ingenuity 
attach a mean or disgusting sense to an epithet 
capable of being otherwise understood, and more 
frequently, perhaps, used to express an elevated 
idea. In many parts of Scotland the word virtue 
is limited entirely to industry ; and a_ young divine 
who preached upon the moral beauties of virtue was 
considerably surprised at learning that the whole 
discourse was supposed to be a panegyric upon a 
particular damsel who could spin fourteen spindles 
of yam in the course of a week. This was natural ; 
but your Uterary critic has the merit of going very 
far a-field to fetch home his degrading association.' 

To return to the correspondence with Ellis — Scott 
writes thus to him in July : — ' I cannot pretend im- 
mediately to enter upon the serious discussion which 
you propose respecting the age of " Sir Tristrem " ; 
but yet, as it seems likely to strip Thomas the 
Prophet of the honours due to tihe author of the 
English " Tristrem," I cannot help hesitatiag before 
I can agree to your theory; — ^and here my doubt 
lies. Thomas of Ercildoune, called the Rhymer, 
is a character mentioned by almost every Scottish 
historian, and the date of whose existence is almost 
as well known as if we had the parish register. 
Now, his great reputation, and his designation of 
Bymour, could only be derived from his poetical 
performances ; and in what did these consist except- 

I20 



LETTER TO ELLIS— JULY 1808 

ing in the romance of " Sir Tristram," mentioned 
by Robert de Brunne? I hardly think, therefore, 
we shall be justified in assuming the existence of 
an earher TJiOTms, who would be, in fact, merely 
the creature of our system. I own I am not pre- 
pared to take this step, if I can escape otherwise 
from you and M. de la Ravaillere — and thus 1 will 
try it. M. de la R. barely informs us that the 
history of Sir Tristrein was known to Chretien de 
Troys in the end of the twelfth century, and to the 
King of Navarre in the beginning of the thirteenth. 
Thus far his evidence goes, and I think not one 
inch farther — for it does not estabUsh the existence 
either of the metrical romance, as you suppose, or 
of the prose romance, as M. de la R. much more 
erroneously supposes, at that very early period. If 
the story of Sir Tristrem was founded in fact, and 
if, which I have all along thought, a person of 
this name really swallowed a dose of cantharides 
intended to stimulate the exertions of his uncle, 
a petty monarch of Cornwall, and involved himself 
of course in an intrigue -with his aunt, these facts 
must have taken place 'during a very early period 
of English history, perhaps about the time of the 
Heptarchy. Now, if this be once admitted, it is 
clear that the raw material from which Thomas wove 
his web, must have been current long before his day, 
and I am inchned to think that Chretien and the 
King of Navarre refer, not to the special metrical 
romance contained in Mr. Donee's fragments, but 
to the general story of Sir Tristrem, whose love 
and misfortunes were handed down by tradition 

121 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

as a historical fact. There is no difficulty in 
supposing a tale of this kind to have passed from 
the Armoricans, or otherwise, into the mouths of 
the French ; as, on the other hand, it seems to 
have been preserved among the Celtic tribes of the 
Border,' from whom, in all probability, it was taken 
by their neighbour, Thomas of Ercildoune. If we 
suppose, therefore, that Chretien and the King 
allude only to the general and well-known story of 
Tristrem, and not to the particular edition of which 
Mr. Douce has some fragments — (and I see no 
evidence that any such special allusion to these 
fragments is made) — it will follow that they may 
be as late as the end of the thirteenth century, 
and that the Thomas mentioned in them may be 
the Thomas of whose existence we have historical 
evidence. In short, the question is, shall Thomas 
be considered as a landmark by which to ascertain 
the antiquity of the fragments, or shall the supposed 
antiquity of the fragments be held a sufficient reason 
for supposing an earlier Thomas? For aught yet 
seen, I incline to my former opinion, that those 
fragments are coeval with the ipsissimus Thomas. 
I acknowledge, the internal evidence, of which you 
are so accurate a judge, weighs more with me than 
the reference to the King of Navarre ; but, after all, 
the extreme difficulty of judging of style, so as to 
bring us within sixty or seventy years, must be fuUy 
considered. Take notice, I have never pleaded the 
matter so high as to say, that the Auchinleck MS. 
contains the very words devised by Thomas the 
Rhymer. On the contrary, I have always thought 

122 



LETTER TO ELLIS— 1808 

it one of the spurious copies in queint Inglis, of 
which Robert de Brunne so heavily complains. But 
this will take little from the curiosity, perhaps little 
from the antiquity, of the romance. Enough of Sir 
T. for the present. — How happy it will make us 
if you can fulfil the expectation you hold out of a 
northern expedition. Whether in the cottage or 
at Edinburgh, we will be equally happy to receive 
you, and show you all the lions of our vicinity. 
Charlotte is hunting out music for Mrs. E., but I 
intend to add Johnson's collection, which, though 
the tunes are simple, and often bad sets, contains 
much more original Scotch music than any other.' 

About this time, Mr. and Mrs. EUis, and their 
friend Douce, were preparing for a tour into the 
North of England; and Scott was invited and 
strongly tempted to join them at various points of 
their progress, particularly at the Grange, near 
Rotherham, in Yorkshire, a seat of the Earl of 
Effingham. But he found it impossible to escape 
again from Scotland, owing to the agitated state of 
the country. — On returning to the cottage from an 
excursion to his Sheriffship, he thus resumes : — 

' To George Ellis, Esq. 

'Lasswade, August 27, 1803. 

' Dear Ellis, 

* My conscience has been thumping me as hard 
as if it had studied under Mendoza, for letting your 
kind favour remain so long unanswered. Never- 
theless, in this it is, like Launcelot Gobbo's, but a 

123 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

hard kind of conscience, as it must know how much 
I have been occupied with Armies of Reserve, and 
MiUtia, and Pikemen, and Sharpshooters, who are 
to descend from Ettrick Forest to the confusion of 
aU invaders. The truth is, that this country has for 
once experienced that the pressure of external danger 
may possibly produce internal unanimity: and so 
great is the present military zeal, that I reaUy wish 
our rulers would devise some way of calling it into 
action, were it only on the economical principle of 
saving so much good courage from idle evaporation. 
— I am interrupted by an extraordinary accident, 
nothing less than a volley of small shot fired through 
the window, at which my wife was five minutes 
before arranging her flowers. By Camp's assistance, 
who run the culprit's foot like a Liddesdale blood- 
hound, we detected an unlucky sportsman, whose 
awkwardness and rashness might have occasioned 
very serious mischief — so much for interruption. — 
To return to Sir Tristrem. As for Mr. Thomas's 
navie, respecting which you state some doubts,* I 
request you to attend to the following particulars : 
— In the first place, surnames were of very late 
introduction into Scotland, and it would be difficult 
to show that they became in general a hereditary 
distinction, until after the time of Thomas the 
Rhjnxier; previously they were mere personal dis- 
tinctions peculiar to the person by whom they were 
borne, and dying along with him. Thus the chil- 

* Mr. Ellis had hinted that ' Rymer might not more necessarily 
indicate an actual poet, than the name of Taylor does in modern times 
an actual knight of the thimble.' 
124 



LETTER TO ELLIS— 1803 

dren of Alan Durward were not called Durward, 
because they were not Ostiarii, the circumstance 
from which he derived the name. When the sur- 
name was derived from property, it became naturally 
hereditary at a more early period, because the dis- 
tinction applied equally to the father and the son. 
The same happened with patronymics, both because 
the name of the father is usually given to the son ; 
so that Walter Fitzwalter would have been my son's 
name in those times as well as my own; and also 
because a clan often takes a sort of general patro- 
nymic from one common ancestor, as Macdonald, 
etc. etc. But though these classes of surnames 
become hereditary at an early period, yet, in the 
natural course of things, epithets merely personal 
are much longer of becoming a family distinc- 
tion.* But I do not trust, by any means, to this 



* The whole of this subject has derived much illustration from the 
recent edition of the ' Ragman's Roll,' a contribution to the Bannatyne 
Club of Edinburgh by two of Sir Walter Scott's most esteemed friends, 
the Lord Chief Commissioner Adam and Sir Samuel Shepherd. That 
record of the oaths of fealty tendered to Edward i., during his Scotch 
usurpation, furnishes, indeed, very strong confirmation of the views which 
the Editor of 'Sir Tristrem' had thus early adopted concerning the 
origin of surnames in Scotland. The landed gentry, over most of the 
country, seem to have been generally distinguished by the surnames still 
borne by their descendants — it is wonderful how little the land seems to 
have changed hands in the course of so many centuries. But the towns' 
people have, with few exceptions, designations apparently indicating the 
actual trade of the individual ; and in many instances, there is distinct 
evidence that the plan of transmitting such names had not been adopted ; 
for example, Thomas the Tailor is described as son of Thomas the Smith, 
or vice versd. The chief magistrates of the burghs appear, however, to 
have been, in most cases, younger sons of the neighbouring gentry, and 
have of course their hereditary designations. This singular document, 
so often quoted and referred to, was never before printed in eoctenso. 

125 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

general argument; because the charter quoted in 
the Minstrelsy contains written evidence, that the 
epithet of Rymour was peculiar to our Thomas, and 
was dropped by his son, who designs himself simply, 
Thomas of Erceldoune, son of Thomas the Rymour 
of Erceldmtne ; which I think is conclusive upon the 
subject. In all this discussion, I have scorned to 
avail myself of the tradition of the country, as well 
as the suspicious testimony of Boece, Dempster, etc., 
grounded probably upon that tradition, which uni- 
formly affirms the name of Thomas to have been 
Learmont or Leirmont, and that of the Rhymer a 
personal epithet. This circumstance may induce us, 
however, to conclude that some of his descendants 
had taken that name — certain it is that his castle 
is called Leirmont's Tower, and that he is as well 
known to the country people by that name, as by, 
the appellation of the Rhymer. 

' Having cleared up this matter, as I think, to 
every one's satisfaction, unless to those resembling 
not Thomas himself, but his namesake the Apostle, 
I have, secondly, to show that my Thomas is the 
TomMS of Douce's MS. Here I must again refer to 
the high and general reverence in which Thomas 
appears to have been held, as is proved by Robert 
de Brunne; but above all, as you observe, to the 
extreme similarity betwixt the French and English 
poems, with this strong circumstance, that the mode 
of telling the story approved by the French minstrel, 
under the authority of his Tomas, is the very mode 
in which my Thomas has told it. Would you desire 
better S3rmpathy ? 
126 



CORRESPONDENCE WITH ELLIS— 1808 

' I lately met by accident a Cornish gentleman, 
who had taken up his abode in Selkirkshire for the 
sake of fishing — and what should his name be but 
Caerlion ? You will not doubt that this interested 
me very much. He tells rae that there is but one 
family of the name in Cornwall, or as far as ever he 
heard any where else, and that they are of great 
antiquity. Does not this circumstance seem to prove 
that there existed in Cornwall a place called Caer- 
lion, giving name to that family? Caerlion would 
probably be Castrum Leonense, the chief town of 
Liones, which in every romance is stated to have 
been Tristrem's country, and from which he derived 
his surname of Tristrem de Liones. This district, 
as you notice in the notes on the Fabliaux, was 
swallowed up by the sea. I need not remind you 
that all this tends to illustrate the Caerlioim men- 
tioned by Tomas, which I always suspected to be a 
very different place from Caerlion on Uske — which 
is no seaport. How I regret the number of leagues 
which prevented my joining you and the sapient 
Douce, and how much ancient lore I have lost. 
Where I have been, the people talked more of the 
praises of Ryno and Fillan (not Ossian's heroes, but 
two Forest greyhounds which I got in a present) 
than, I verily believe, they would have done of the 
prowesses of Sir Tristrem, or of Esplandian, had 
either of them appeared to lead on the levy en 
masse. Yours ever, W, Scott.' 

EUis says in reply — ' My dear Scott, I must begin 
by congratulating you on Mrs. Scott's escape ; Camp, 

127 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

if he had had no previous title to immortaUty, would 
deserve it, for his zeal and address in detecting the 
stupid marksman, who, while he took aim at a bird 
on a tree, was so near shooting your fair ' bird in 
bower.' If there were many such shooters, it would 
become then a sufficient excuse for the reluctance 
of Government to furnish arms indifferently to all 
volunteers. In the next place, I am glad to hear 
that you are disposed to adopt my channel for trans- 
mitting the tale of Tristrem to Chretien de Troye. 
The more I have thought on the subject, the more 
I am convinced that the Normans, long before the 
Conquest, had acquired from the Britons of Armorica 
a considerable knowledge of our old British fables, 
and that this led them, after the Conquest, to enquire 
after such accounts as were to be found in the country 
where the events are supposed to have taken place. 
I am satisfied, from the internal evidence of Geoffrey 
of Monmouth's History, that it must have been 
fabricated in Bretagne, and that he did, as he asserts, 
only translate it. Now, as Marie, who lived about 
a century later, certainly translated also from the 
Breton a series of lays relating to Arthur and his 
knights, it will follow that the first poets who wrote 
in France, such as Chretien, etc., must have acquired 
their knowledge of our traditions from Bretagne, 
Observe, that the pseudo-Tiu^in, who is supposed to 
have been anterior to Geoffrey, and who, on that 
supposition, cannot have borrowed from him, men- 
tions, among Charlemagne's heroes, Hoel (the hero 
of Geoffrey also), " de quo canitur cantilena usque ad 
hodiernum diem." Now, if Thomas was able to 
128 



CORRESPONDENCE WITH ELLIS— 1808 

establish his story as the most authentic, even by the 
avowal of the French themselves, and if the sketch 
of that story was previously known, it must have 
been because he wrote in the country which his hero 
was supposed to have inhabited; and on the same 
grounds the Norman minstrels here, and even their 
English successors, were allowed to fill up, with as 
many circumstances as they thought proper, the 
tales of which the Armorican Bretons probably fur- 
nished the first imperfect outline. 

' What you teU me about your Cornish fisherman 
is very curious; and I think with you that Httle 
reliance is to be placed on our Welsh geography 
— and that Caerlion on Uske is by no means the 
Caerlion of Tristrem. Few writers or readers have 
hitherto considered sufficiently, that fi*om the moment 
when Hengist first obtained a settlement in the Isle 
of Thanet, that settlement became England, and all 
the rest of the country became Wales; that these 
divisions continued to represent different proportions 
of the island at different periods ; but that Wales, 
during the whole Heptarchy, and for a long time 
after, comprehended the whole western coast very 
nearly from Cornwall to Dunbretton ; and that this 
whole tract, of which the eastern fi-ontier may be 
easily traced for each particular period, preserved 
most probably to the age of Thomas a community 
of language, of manners, and traditions. 

'As your last volume announces your Lay, as 
well as Sir Tristrem, as in the press, I begin, in 
common with all yovu* - friends, to be uneasy about 
the future disposal of your time. Having nothing 

2—1 129 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

but a very active profession, and your military pur- 
suits, and your domestic occupations to think of, 
and Leyden having monopolized Asiatic lore, you 
will presently be quite an idle man! You are, 
however, still in time to learn Erse, and it is, I am 
afraid, very necessary that you should do so, in order 
to stimulate my laziness, which has hitherto made 
no progress whatever in Welsh. 

• Your ever faithful, G. E.' 

' P.S. — Is Camp married yet ? ' 

EUis had projected some time before this an 
edition of the Welsh Mabinogion,* in which he was 
to be assisted by Mr. Owen, the author of the 
' Welsh and English Dictionary,' ' Cambrian Bio- 
graphy,' etc. ' I am very sorry,' Scott says (Septem- 
ber 14), 'that you flag over those wild and interest- 
ing tales. I hope, if you will not work yourself (for 
which you have so little excuse, having both the 
golden talents and the golden leisure necessary for 
study), you will at least keep Owen to something 
that is rational — I mean to iron horses, and magic 
cauldrons, and Bran the Blessed, with the music 
of his whole army upon his shoulders, and, in short, 
to something more pleasing and profitable than old 
apophthegms, triads, and "blessed bm'dens of the 
womb of the isle of Britain." Talking of such 
burdens, Camp has been regularly wedded to a fair 
dame in the neighbourhood, but notwithstanding 



* The Mabinogion have at last been translated, and are now in the 
course of publication, in a very beautiful form, by the Lady Charlotte 
Guest. [1839.] 
130 



CORRESPONDENCE WITH ELLIS— 1808 

the Italian policy of locking the lady in a stable, she 
is suspected of some inaccuracy ; but we suspend 
judgment, as Othello ought in all reason to have 
done, till we see the produce of the union. As for 
my own employment, I have yet much before me, 
and as the beginning of letting out ink is like the 
letting out of water, I daresay I shall go on scribbling 
one nonsense or another to the end of the chapter. 
People may say this and that of the pleasure of fame 
or of profit as a motive of writing. I think the only 
pleasure is in the actual exertion and research, and 
I would no more write upon any other terms than 
I would hunt merely to dine upon hare-soup. At 
the same time, if credit and profit came unlooked for, 
I would no more quarrel with them than with the 
soup, I hope this will find you and Mrs. EUis safely 
and pleasantly settled, 

' — By the way, while you are in his neighbourhood, 
I hope you will not fail to enquire into the history 
of the vahant Moor of MoorhaU and the Dragon 
of Wantley. As a noted burlesque upon the popular 
romance, the ballad has some curiosity and merit. — 
Ever yours, W. S.' 

Mr. Ellis received this letter where Scott hoped 
it would reach him, at the seat of Lord Effingham ; 
and he answers, on the 3d of October — ' The beauty 
of this part of the country is such as to indemnify 
the traveller for a few miles of very indifferent road, 
and the tedious process of creeping up and almost 
sliding down a succession of high hills ; and in the 
number of picturesque landscapes by which we are 

13^ 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

encompassed, the den of the dragon which you re- 
commended to our attention is the most superla- 
tively beautiful and romantic. You are, I suppose, 
aware that this same den is the very spot from 
whence Lady Mary Wortley Montague wrote many 
of her early letters ; and it seems that an old house- 
keeper, who lived there tUl last year, remembered to 
have seen her, and dwelt with great pleasure on the 
various charms of her celebrated mistress ; so that 
its wild scenes have an equal claim to veneration 
from the admirers of wit and gallantry, and the 
far-famed investigators of remote antiquity. With 
regard to the original Dragon, I have met with two 
diflFerent traditions. One of these (which I think is 
preserved by Percy) states him to have been a 
wicked attorney, a relentless persecutor of the poor, 
who was at length, fortunately for his neighbours, 
ruined by a law-suit which he had undertaken against 
his worthy and powerful antagonist Moor of Moor- 
hall. The other legend, which is current in the 
Wortley family, states him to have been a most 
formidable drinker, whose powers of inglutition, 
strength of stomach, and stability of head, had pro- 
cured him a long series of triumphs over common 
visitants, but who was at length fairly drunk dead 
by the chieftain of the opposite moors. It must be 
confessed that the form of the den, a cavern cut in 
the rock, and very nearly resembling a wine or ale 
cellar, tends to corroborate this tradition ; but I am 
rather tempted to believe that both the stories were 
invented apres coup, and that the supposed dragon 
was some wolf or other destructive animal, who was 
132 



WORTLEY HALL— OCTOBER 1803 

finally hunted doAvn by Moor of MoorhaU, after 
doing considerable mischief to the flocks and herds 
of his superstitious neighbours. 

' The present house appears to have grown to its 
even now moderate size by successive additions to a 
very small logge (lodge), built by " a gentle knight, 
Sir Thomas Wortley," in the time of Henry viii., 
for the pleasure, as an old inscription in the present 
scullery testifies, of "listening to the Hartes bell." 
Its site is on the side of a very high rocky hill, 
covered with oaks (the weed of the country), and 
overhanging the river Don, which in this place 
is little more than a mountain torrent, though it 
becomes navigable a few miles lower at Sheffield. A 
great part of the road from hence (which is seven 
miles distant) runs through forest ground, and I have 
no doubt that the whole was at no distant period 
covered with wood, because the modern improve- 
ments of the country, the result of flourishing manu- 
factories, have been carried on almost within our own 
time in conisequence of the abundance of coal which 
here breaks out in many places even on the surface. 
On the opposite side of the river begin almost im- 
mediately the extensive moors which strike along 
the highest land of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, and 
following the chain of hiUs, probably communicated 
not many centuries ago with those of Northumber- 
land, Cumberland, and Scotland. I therefore doubt 
whether the general face of the country is not 
better evidence as to the nature of the monster 
than the particular appearance of the cavern ; and 
am inchned to believe that Moor of MoorhaU was 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

a hunter of wild beasts, rather than of attorneys 
or hard drinkers. 

'You are unjust in saying that I flag over the 
Mabinogion — I have been very constantly employed 
upon my preface, and was proceeding to the last 
section when I set off for this place— so you see I 
am perfectly exculpated, and all over as white as 
snow. Anne being a true aristocrat, and consider- 
ing purity of blood as essential to lay the foundation 
of ail the virtues she expects to call out by a 
laborious education of a true son of Camp — she 
highly approves the strict and even prudish severity 
with which you watch over the morals of his bride, 
and expects you, inasmuch as all the good knights 
she has read of have been remarkable for their in- 
comparable beauty, not to neglect that important 
requisite in selecting her future guardian. We 
possess a vulgar dog (a pointer) to whom it is in- 
tended to commit the charge of our house during 
our absence, and to whom I mean to give orders to 
repel by force any attempts of our neighbours during 
the times that I shall be occupied in preparing hare- 
soup; but Fitz-Camp will be her companion, and 
she trusts that you will strictly examine him while 
yet a varlet, and only send him up when you thitik 
him likely to become a true knight. Adieu — milk 
choses. G. E.' 

Scott tells EUis in reply (October 14), that he 
was ' infinitely gratified with his account of Wortley 
Lodge and the Dragon,' and refers him to the article 
' Kempion,' in the Minstrelsy, for a similar tradition 

134 



LASSWADE— OCTOBER 1803 

respecting an ancestor of the noble house of Somer- 
ville. The reader can hardly need to be reminded 
that the gentle knight. Sir Thomas Wortley's, love 
of hearing the deer hell was often alluded to in 
Scott's subsequent writings. He goes on to express 
his hope, that next summer will be 'a more pro- 
pitious season for a visit to Scotland. The necessity 
of the present occasion,' he says, ' has kept almost 
every individual, however insignificant, to his post. 
God has left us entirely to our own means of 
defence, for we have not above one regiment of the 
Une in all our ancient kingdom. In the mean while, 
we are doing the best we can to prepare ourselves 
for a contest, which, perhaps, is not far distant. 
A beacon light, communicating with that of Edin- 
burgh Castle, is just erecting in front of our quiet 
cottage. My field equipage is ready, and I want 
nothing but a pipe and a schnurhdrtchen to convert 
me into a complete hussar.* Charlotte, with the 
infantry (of the household troops, I mean), is to 
beat her retreat into Ettrick Forest, where, if the 
Tweed is in his usual wintry state of flood, she 
may weather out a descent from Ostend. Next 
year I hope all this will be over, and that not 
only I shall have the pleasure of receiving you in 
peace and quiet, but also of going with you through 



* Sohnurbartchen is German for mustachio. It appears from a page 
of an early note-book previously transcribed, that Scott had been some- 
times a smoker of tobacco in the first days of his light-horsemanship. 
He had laid aside the habit at the time when this letter was written ; hut 
he twice again resumed it, though he never carried the indulgence to 
any excess. 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

every part of Caledonia, in which you can possibly 
be interested. Friday se'ennight our corps takes 
the field for ten days — for the second time within 
three months — which may explain the military turn 
of my epistle. 

' Poor Ritson is no more. All his vegetable soups 
and puddings have not been able to avert the evil 
day, which, I understand, was preceded by madness. 
It must be worth while to enquire who has got his 
MSS., — I mean his own notes and writings. The 
" Life of Arthur," for example, must contain many 
curious facts and quotations, which the poor defunct 
had the power of assembling to an astonishing 
degree, without being able to combine any thing like 
a narrative, or even to deduce one useful inference 
— witness his " Essay on Romance and Minstrelsy," 
which reminds one of a heap of rubbish, which had 
either turned out unfit for the architect's purpose, 
or beyond his skill to make use of. The ballads he 
had collected in Cumberland and Northumberland, 
too, would greatly interest me. If they have fallen 
into the hands of any liberal collector, I dare say 
I might be indulged with a sight of them. Pray 
enquire about this matter. 

' Yesterday Charlotte and I had a visit which we 
owe to Mrs. E. A rosy lass, the sister of a bold 
yeoman in our neighbourhood, entered our cottage, 
towing in a monstrous sort of bulldog, called em- 
phatically Cerberus, whom she came on the part of 
her brother to beg our acceptance of, understanding 
we were anxious to have a son of Camp. Cerberus 
was no sooner loose (a pleasure which, I suspect, he 
136 



CORRESPONDENCE WITH ELLIS— 1803 

had rarely enjoyed) than his father {suppose) and he 
engaged in a battle which might have been cele- 
brated by the author of the " Unnatural Combat," 
and which, for aught I know, might have turned 
out a combat a outrance, if I had not interfered with 
a horse- whip, instead of a baton, as juge de Camp. 
The odds were indeed greatly against the stranger 
knight — two fierce Forest greyhounds having arrived, 
and, contrary to the law of arms, stoutly assailed 
him. I hope to send you a puppy instead of this 
redoubtable Cerberus. Love to Mrs. E. — W. S.' 

After giving Scott some information aboiit Ritson's 
literary treasures, most of which, as it turned out, had 
been disposed of by auction shortly before his death, 
Mr. EUis (10th November) returns to the charge 
about Tristrem and True Thomas. ' You appear,' 
he says, 'to have been for some time so military, 
that I am afraid the most difficult and important part 
of your original plan, viz. your History of Scottish 
poetry, will again be postponed, and must be kept 
for some future publication. I am, at this moment, 
much in want of two such assistants as you and 
Leyden. It seems to me, that if I had some local 
knowledge of that wicked Ettrick Forest, I could 
extricate myself tolerably — but as it is, although I 
am convinced that my general idea is tolerably just, 
I am unable to guide my elephants in that quiet and 
decorous step-by-step march which the nature of 
such animals requires through a country of which I 
don't know any of the roads. My comfort is, that 
you cannot pubUsh Tristrem without a preface, — 
that you can't write one without giving me some 

^Z7 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

assistance, — and that you must finish the said 
preface long before I go to press with my Intro- 
duction.' 

This was the Introduction to Ellis's ' Specimens 
of Ancient English Romances,' in which he intended 
to prove, that as Valentia was, during several ages, 
the exposed frontier of Roman Britain towards the 
unsubdued tribes of the North, and as two whole 
legions were accordingly usually quartered there, 
while one besides sufficed for the whole southern 
part of the island, the manners of Valentia, which 
included the district of Ettrick Forest, must have 
been greatly favoured by the continued residence of 
so many Roman troops. ' It is probable, therefore,' 
he says, in another letter, 'that the civilisation of 
the northern part became gradually the most perfect. 
That country gave birth, as you have observed, to 
Merlin, and to Anevuin, — who was probably the 
same as the historian GUdas. It seems to have given 
education to Taliessin — it was the country of Bede 
and Adonnan.' 

I shall not quote more on this subject, as the 
reader may turn to the published essay for Mr. Ellis's 
matured opinions respecting it. To return to his 
letter of November 10th, 1803, he proceeds—' And 
now let me ask you about the Lay of the Last 
Minstrel. That, I think, may go on as well in your 
tent, amidst the clang of trumpets and the dust of 
the field, as in your quiet cottage — perhaps indeed 
still better— nay, I am not sure whether a real 
invasion would not be, as far as your poetry is con- 
cerned, a thing to be wished.' 
138 



WORDSWORTH— SEPTEMBER 1803 

It was in the September of this year that Scott 
first saw Wordsworth. Their common acquaintance, 
Stoddart, had so often talked of them to each other, 
that they met as if they had not been strangers ; and 
they parted Mends. 

Mr. and Miss Wordsworth had just completed that • 
tour in the Highlands, of which so many incidents 
have since been immortalized, both in the poet's verse 
and in the hardly less poetical prose of his sister's 
Diary. On the morning of the 17th of September, 
having left their carriage at Rosslyn, they walked 
down the valley to Lasswade, and arrived there before 
Mr. and Mrs. Scott had risen. ' We were received,' 
Mr. Wordsworth has told me, ' with that frank cor- 
diality which, under whatever circumstances I after- 
wards met him, always marked his manners ; and, 
indeed, I found him then in every respect — except, 
perhaps, that his animal spirits were somewhat higher 
— ^precisely the same man that you knew him in later 
life ; the same hvely, entertaining conversation, full 
of anecdote, and averse from disquisition ; the same 
unaffected modesty about himself; the same cheerful 
and benevolent and hopeful views of man and the 
world. He partly read and partly recited, sometimes 
in an enthusiastic style of chant, the first four cantos 
of the Lay of the Last Minstrel ; and the novelty of 
the manners, the clear picturesque descriptions, and 
the easy glowing energy of much of the verse, greatly 
delighted me.' 

After this he walked with the tourists to Rosslyn, 
and promised to meet them in twa days at Melrose. 
The night before they reached Mekose they slept at 

139 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the little quiet inn of Clovenford, where, on men- 
tioning his name, they were received with all sorts 
of attention and kindness, — ^the landlady observiog 
that Mr. Scott, ' who was a very clever gentleman,' 
was an old friend of the house, and usually spent a 
good deal of time there during the fishing season; 
but, indeed,' says Mr. Wordsworth, ' wherever we 
named him, we found the word acted as an open 
sesamum ; and I beheve, that in the character of the 
Sheriff's friends, we might have counted on a hearty 
welcome under any roof in the Border country.' 

He met them at Melrose on the 19th, and escorted 
them through the Abbey, pointing out all its beauties, 
and pouring out his rich stores of history and tradi- 
tion. They then dined and spent the evening to- 
gether at the inn ; but Miss Wordsworth observed 
that there was some difficulty about arranging matters 
for the night, 'the landlady refusing to settle any 
thing until she had ascertained from the Sheriff him- 
self that he had no objection to sleep in the same 
room with William.'' Scott was thus far on his way 
to the Circuit Court at Jedburgh, in his capacity of 
Sheriff, and there his new friends again joined him ; 
but he begged that they would not enter the court, 
' for,' said he, ' I really would not like you to see the 
sort of figure I cut there.' They did see him casually, 
however, in his cocked hat and sword, marching in 
the Judge's procession to the sound of one cracked 
trumpet, and were then not surprised that he should 
have been a httle ashamed of the whole ceremonial. 
He introduced to them his friend WiUiam Laidlaw, 
who was attending the court as a juryman, and who, 
140 



WORDSWORTH— SEPTEMBER 1808 

having read some of Wordsworth's verses in a news- 
paper, was exceedingly anxious to be of the party, 
when they explored at leisure, all the law-business 
being over, the beautiful valley of the Jed, and the 
ruins of the Castle of Femieherst, the original fast- 
ness of the noble family of Lothian. The grove of 
stately ancient elms about and below the ruin was 
seen to great advantage in a fine, grey, breezy 
autumnal afternoon ; and Mr. Wordsworth happened 
to say, ' What hfe there is in trees !' — ' How different,' 
said Scott, ' was the feeling of a very intelligent young 
lady, born and bred in the Orkney Islands, who lately 
came to spend a season in this neighbourhood ! She 
told me nothing in the mainland scenery had so much 
disappointed her as woods and trees. She found 
them so dead and hfeless, that she could never help 
pining after the eternal motion and variety of the 
ocean. And so back she has gone, and I believe 
nothing will ever tempt her from the wind-swept 
Orcades again.' 

Next day they all proceeded together up the Teviot 
to Hawick, Scott entertaining his friends with some 
legend or ballad connected with every tower or rock 
they passed. He made them stop for a little to 
admire particularly a scene of deep and solemn re- 
tirement, called Home's Pool, from its having been 
the daily haunt of a contemplative schoolmaster, 
known to him in his youth; and at Kirkton he 
pointed out the little village schoolhouse, to which 
his friend Leyden had walked six or eight miles 
every day across the moors ' when a poor barefooted 
boy.' From Hawick, where they spent the night, 

141 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

he led them next morning to the brow of a hill, from 
which they could see a wide range of the Border 
mountains, Ruberslaw, the Carter, and the Cheviots; 
and lamented that neither their engagements nor 
his own would permit them to make at this time 
an excursion into the wilder glens of Liddesdale, 
' where,' said he, ' I have strolled so often and so 
long, that I may say I have a home in every farm- 
house.' 'And, indeed,' adds Mr. Wordsworth, 
'wherever we went with him, he seemed to know 
every body, and every body to know and like him.' 
Here they parted — the Wordsworths to pursue 
their journey homeward by Eskdale — he to return 
to Lasswade. 

The impression on Mr. Wordsworth's mind was, 
that on the whole he attached much less import- 
ance to his hterary labours or reputation than to 
his bodily sports, exercises, and social amusements ; 
and yet he spoke of his profession as if he had 
already given up almost all hope of rising by it ; 
and some allusion being made to its profits, ob- 
served that ' he was sure he could, if he chose, get 
more money than he should ever wish to have from 
the booksellers.' * 

This confidence in his own literary resources ap- 
peared to Mr. Wordsworth remarkable — the more 
so, from the careless way in which its expression 
dropt from him. As to his despondence concern- 



* I have drawn up the account of this meeting from my recollection 
partly of Mr. Wordsworth's conversation — partly from that of his sister's 
charming ' Diary,' which he was so kind as to read over to me on the 
16th May 1836. 
142 



WORDSWORTH— OCTOBER 1808 

ing the bar, I confess his fee-book indicates much 
less ground for such a feeling than I should have 
expected to discover there. His practice brought 
him, as we have seen, in the session of 1796-7, 
£144 : 10s. ; its proceeds fell down, in the first year 
of his married life, to £79 : 17s. ; but they rose again, 
in 1798-9, to £135 : 9s. ; amounted, in 1799-1800, 
to £129: 13s.; in 1800-1, to £l70; in 1801-2, to 
£202 : 12s. ; and in the session that had just elapsed 
(which is the last included in the record before me), 
to £228 : 18s. 

On reaching his cottage in Westmoreland, Words- 
worth addressed a letter to Scott, from which I 
must quote a few sentences. It is dated Grasmere, 
October 16, 1803. ' We had a delightful journey 
home, delightful weather, and a sweet country to 
travel through. We reached our little cottage in 
high spirits, and thankful to God for all his bounties. 
My wife and child were both well, and as I need not 
say, we had all of us a happy meeting. . . . We 
passed Branxholme — your Branxholme, we supposed 
— about four miles on this side of Hawick. It looks 
better in your poem than in its present realities. 
The situation, however, is delightful, and makes 
amends for an ordinary mansion. The whole of 
the Teviot and the pastoral steeps abovit Mosspaul 
pleased us exceedingly. The Esk below Langholm 
is a delicious river, and we saw it to great advantage. 
We did not omit noticing Johnnie Armstrong's 
Keep ; but his hanging place, to our great regret, we 
missed. We were, indeed, most truly sorry that we 
could not have you along with us into Westmore- 

143 



LIFE OF Sm WALTER SCOTT 

land. The country was in its full glory^-the verdure 
of the valleys, in which we are so much superior to 
you in Scotland, but little tarnished by the weather, 
and the trees putting on their most beautiful looks. 
My sister was quite enchanted, and we often said 
to each other, What a pity Mr. Scott is not with 
us ! ... I had the pleasure of seeing Coleridge and 
Southey at Keswick last Sunday. Soutiiey, whom 
I never saw much of before, I liked much : he is very 
pleasant in his manner, and a man of great reading 
in old books, poetry, chronicles, memoirs, etc. etc., 
particularly Spanish and Portuguese. . . . My sister 
and I often talk of the happy days that we spent in 
your company. Such things do not occur often in 
life. If we live we shall meet again; that is my 
consolation when I think of these things. Scotland 
and England sound like division, do what ye can; 
but we really are but neighbours, and if you were 
no farther off, and in Yorkshire, we should think so. 
Farewell. God prosper you, and all that belongs to 
you. Your sincere friend, for such I will call myself, 
though slow to use a word of such solemn meaning 
to any one, W. Wordsworth.' 

The poet then transcribes his noble sonnet on 
Neidpath Castle, of which Scott had, it seems, re- 
quested a copy. In the MS. it stands somewhat 
differently from the printed edition; but in that 
origmal shape Scott always recited it, and few lines 
in the language were more frequently in his mouth. 

I have already said something of the beginning of 
Scott's acquaintance with the 'Ettrick Shepherd.' 
144 




PROFESSOR DUGALD STEWAET 

PAIiTTED BT BlRHJiiNRY" RAEBUHN.n.A. 



THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD— 1803 

Shortly after their first meeting, Hogg, coming into 
Edinburgh with a flock of sheep, was seized with a 
sudden ambition of seeing himself in type, and he 
wrote out that same night ' Willie and Katie,' and 
a few other ballads, already famous in the Forest, 
which some obscure bookseller gratified him by 
printing accordingly ; but they appear to have 
attracted no notice beyond their original sphere. 
Hogg then made an excursion into the Highlands, 
in quest of employment as overseer of some exten- 
sive sheep-farm; but, though Scott had furnished 
him with strong recommendations to various friends, 
he returned without success. He printed an account 
of his travels, however, in a set of letters in the 
Scots Magazine, which, though exceedingly rugged 
and uncouth, had abundant traces of the native 
shrewdness and genuine poetical feeUng of this 
remarkable man. These also failed to excite atten- 
tion ; but, undeterred by such disappointments, the 
Shepherd no sooner read the third volume of the 
'Minstrelsy,' than he made up his mind that 
the Editor's ' Imitations of the Ancients ' were by 
no means what they should have been. 'Immedi- 
ately,' he says, in one of his many Memoirs of him- 
self, ' I chose a number of traditional facts, and set 
about imitating the manner of the ancients myself.' 
These imitations he transmitted to Scott, who warmly 
praised the many striking beauties scattered over 
their rough surface. The next time that Hogg's 
business carried him to Edinburgh, he waited upon 
Scott, who invited him to dinner in Castle Street, in 
company vnth William Laidlaw, who happened also 

2— K 145 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

to be in town, and some other admirers of the rustic 
genius. When Hogg entered the drawing-room, 
Mrs. Scott, being at the time in a delicate state 
of health, was reclining on a sofa. The Shepherd, 
after being presented, and making his best bow, 
forthwith took possession of another sofa placed 
opposite to hers, and stretched himself thereupon 
at all his length ; for, as he said afterwards, ' I 
thought I could never do wrong to copy the lady 
of the house.' As his dress at this period was pre- 
cisely that in which any ordinary herdsman attends 
cattle to the market, and as his hands, moreover, 
bore most legible marks of a recent sheep-smearing, 
the lady of the house did not observe with perfect 
equanimity the novel usage to which her chintz 
was exposed. The Shepherd, however, remarked 
nothing of all this — dined heartily and drank freely, 
and, by jest, anecdote, and song, afforded plentiftil 
merriment to the more civilized part of the company. 
As the Uquor operated, his familiarity increased and 
strengthened; from 'Mr. Scott,' he advanced to 
'Sherra,' and thence to 'Scott,' 'Walter,' and 
'Wattie,' — until, at supper, he fairly convulsed the 
whole party by addressing Mrs. Scott as ' Charlotte.' 
The collection entitled ' The Mountain Bard ' was 
eventually published by Constable, in consequence 
of Scott's recommendation, and this work did at last 
afford Hogg no slender share of the popular reputa- 
tion for which he had so long thirsted. It is not my 
business, however, to pursue the details of his story. 
What I have written was only to render intelligible 
the following letter : — 
146 



THE ETTRICK SHEPHERD— 1803 

' To Walter Scott, Esq., Advocate, Castle Street, 
Edinburgh. 

' Ettrick-House, December 24, 1803. 

' Dear Mr. Scott, 

' I have been very impatient to hear jfrom you. 
There is a certain affair of which you and I talked a 
httle in private, and which must now be concluded, 
that naturally increaseth this. 

' I am afraid that I was at least half-seas over the 
night I was with you, for I cannot, for my life, 
recollect what passed when it was late; and, there 
being certainly a small vacuum in my brain, which, 
when empty, is quite empty, but is sometimes sup- 
plied with a small distillation of intellectual matter 
— ^this must have been empty that night, or it never 
could have been taken possession of by the fumes 
of the liquor so easily. If I was in the state in 
which I suspect that I was, I must have spoke a 
very great deal of nonsense, for which I beg ten 
thousand pardons. I have the consolation, however, 
of remembering that Mrs. Scott kept in company 
all or most of the time, which she certainly could 
not have done, had I been very rude. I remember, 
too, of the filial injunction you gave at parting, 
cautioning me against being ensnared by the loose 
women in town. I am sure I had not reason enough 
left at that time to express either the half of my 
gratitude for the kind hint, or the utter abhorrence 
I inherit at those seminaries of lewdness. 

' You once promised me your best advice in the 
first lawsuit in which I had the particular happiness 

147 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of being engaged. I am now going to ask it 
seriously in an affair, in which, I am sure, we will 
both take as much pleasure. It is this : — I have 
as many songs beside me, which are certainly the 
worst of my productions, as will make about one 
hundred pages close printed, and about two hundred, 
printed as the Minstrelsy is. Now, although I will 
not proceed without your consent and advice, yet I 
would have you to understand that I expect it, and 
have the scheme much at heart at present. The 
first thing that suggested it, was their extraordinary 
repute in Ettrick and its neighbourhood, and being 
everlastingly plagued with writing copies, and pro- 
mising scores which I never meant to perform. As 
my last pamphlet was never known, save to a few 
friends, I wish your advice what pieces of it are 
worth preserving. The "Pastoral" I am resolved 
to insert, as I am " Sandy Tod." As to my manu- 
scripts, they are endless; and as I doubt you wiU 
disapprove of pubUshing them wholesale, and letting 
the good help off the bad, I think you must trust 
to my discretion in the selection of a few. I wish 
likewise to know if you think a graven image on the 
first leaf is any recommendation ; and if we might 
front the songs with a letter to you, giving an 
impartial account of my manner of Ufe and educa- 
tion, and, which if you pleased to transcribe, putting 
He for I. Again, there is no pubHshing a book 
without a patron, and I have one or two in my 
eye, and of which I wiU, with my wonted assurance 
to you, give you the most free choice. The first 
is Walter Scott, Esq., Advocate, Sheriff-depute of 
148 



SIR TRISTREM— 1804 

Ettrick Forest, which, if permitted, 1 will address 
you in a dedication singular enough. The next is 
Lady Dalkeith, which, if you approved of, you must 
become the Editor yourself; and I shall give you 
my word for it, that neither word nor sentiment in 
it shaU offend the most delicate ear. You wUl not 
be in the least jealous, if, alongst vsdth my services 
to you, I present my kindest compliments to the 
sweet little lady whom you call Charlotte. As for 
Camp and Walter (I beg pardon for this pre- 
eminence), they will not mind them if I should 
exhaust my eloquence in compliments. Believe 
me. Dear Walter, your most devoted servant, 

James Hogg.' 

The reader will, I doubt not, be particularly 
amused with one of the suggestions in this letter ; 
namely, that Scott should transcribe the Shepherd's 
narrative in fore of his life and education, and 
merely putting 'He' for 'I,' adopt it as his own 
composition. James, however, would have had no 
hesitation about offering a similar suggestion either 
to Scott, or Wordsworth, or Byron, at any period of 
their renown. To say nothing about modesty, his 
notions of literary honesty were always exceedingly 
loose; but, at the same time, we must take into 
account his peculiar notions, or rather no notions, 
as to the proper limits of a joke. 

Literature, like misery, makes men acquainted 
with strange bedfellows. Let us return from the 
worthy Shepherd of Ettrick to the courtly wit and 
scholar of Sunninghill. In the last quoted of his 

149 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

letters, he expresses his fear that Scott's military 
avocations might cause him to pubUsh the Tristrem 
unaccompanied by his 'Essay on the History of 
Scottish Poetry.' It is needless to add that no such 
Essay ever was completed ; but I have heard Scott 
say that his plan had been to begin with the age of 
Thomas of Ercildoune, and bring the subject down 
to his own, illustrating each stage of his progress by 
a specimen of verse — imitating every great master's 
style, as he had done that of the original Sir Tris- 
trem in his ' Conclicsion." Such a series of pieces 
from his hand would have been invaluable, merely as 
bringing out in a clear manner the gradual divari- 
cation of the two great dialects of the English tongue; 
but seeing by his ' Verses on a Poacher,' written many 
years after this in professed imitation of Crabbe, vsdth 
what happy art he could pour the poetry of his own 
mind into the mould of another artist, it is impossible 
to doubt that we have lost better things than anti- 
quarian illumination by the non-completion of a 
design in which he should have embraced succes- 
sively the tone and measure of Douglas, Dunbar, 
Lindesay, Montgomerie, Hamilton, Ramsay, Fer- 
gusson, and Burns. 

The Tristrem was now far advanced at press. He 
says to Ellis, on the 19th March 1804 — « As I had 
a world of things to say to you, I have been culpably, 
but most naturally silent. When you turn a botlie 
with its head downmost, you must have remarked 
that the extreme impatience of the contents to get 
out all at once greatly impedes their getting out at 
aU. I have, however, been forming the resolution of 
150 



SIR TRISTREM— 1804 

sending a grand packet with Sir Tristrem, who will 
kiss your hands in about a fortnight. I intend un- 
castrated copies for you, Heber, and Mr. Douce, who, 
I am willing to hope, will accept this mark of my 
great respect and warm remembrance of his kindness 
while in London. — Pray send me without delay the 
passage referring to Thovias in the French " Horn- 
child." Far from being daunted with the position of 
the enemy, I am resolved to carry it at the point of 
the bayonet, and, hke an able general, to attack where 
it would be difficult to defend. Without metaphor 
or parable, I am determined not only that my Tomas 
shall be the author of Tristrem, but that he shall be 
the author of Hornchild also. I must, however, read 
over the romance, before I can make my arrange- 
ments. Holding, with Ritson, that the copy in his 
collection is translated from the French, I do not see 
why we should not suppose that the French had been 
originally a version from our Thomas. The date does 
not greatly frighten me, as I have extended Thomas 
of Ercildoune's Ufe to the three-score and ten years 
of the Psalmist, and consequently removed back the 
date of "Sir Tristrem " to 1250. The French trans- 
lation might be written for that matter within a few 
days after Thomas's work was completed — and I can 
allow a few years. He lived on the Border, already 
possessed by Norman families, and in the vicinity of 
Northumberland, where there were many more. Do 
you think the minstrels of the Percies, the Vescies, 
the Morells, the Grais, and the De Vaux, were not 
acquainted with honest Thomas, their next door 
neighbour, who was a poet, and wrote excellent tales — 

151 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and, moreover, a laird, and gave, I dare be sworn, 
good dinners ? And would they not anxiously trans- 
late, for the amusement of their masters, a story like 
Hornchild, so intimately connected with the lands in 
which they had settled ? And do you not think, from 
the whole structure of Hornchild, however often 
translated and retranslated, that it must have been 
originally of northern extraction ? I have not time 
to tell you certain suspicions I entertain that Mr. 
Douce's fragments are the work of one RaouU de 
Beauvais, who flourished about the middle of the 
thirteenth century, and for whose accommodation 
principally I have made Thomas, to use a military 
phrase, dress backwards for ten years.' 

AU this playful language is exquisitely charac- 
teristic of Scott's indomitable adherence to his own 
views. But his making Thomas dress backwards — 
and resolving that, if necessary, he shall be the author 
of Hornchild, as well as Sir Tristrem — may perhaps 
remind the reader of Don Quixote's method of re- 
pairing the headpiece which, as originally constructed, 
one blow had sufficed to demolish : — ' Not altogether 
approving of his having broken it to pieces with so ' 
much ease, to secure himself from the like danger for 
the future, he made it over again, fencing it with 
small bars of iron within, in such a manner, that he 
rested satisfied of its strength — and, without caring 
to make afresh experiment on it, he approved and 
looked upon it as a most excellent helmet' 

EUis having made some observations on Scott's 
article upon Godwin's Life of Chaucer, which implied 
a notion that he had formed a regular connexion 
152 



SIR TRISTREM— 1804 

with the Edinburgh Review, he in the same letter 
says — ' I quite agree with you as to the general eon- 
duct of the Review, which savours more of a wish 
to display than to instruct ; but as essays, many of 
the articles are invaluable, and the principal con- 
ductor is a man of very acute and universal talent. 
I am not regularly connected with the work, nor 
have I either inclination or talents to use the critical 
scalping knife, unless as in the case of Godwin, where 
flesh and blood succumbed under the temptation. I 
don't know if you have looked into his tomes, of 
which a whole edition has vanished — I was at a loss 
to know how, till I conjectured that, as the heaviest 
materials to be come at, they have been sent on the 
secret expedition, planned by Mr. Phillips and adopted 
by our sapient Government, for blocking up the 
mouth of our enemy's harbours. They should have 
had my free consent to take Phillips and Godwin, 
and aU our other lumber, literary and political, for 
the same beneficial purpose. But in general, I think 
it ungentlemanly to wound any person's feelings 
through an anonymous publication, unless where 
conceit or false doctrine strongly calls for reproba- 
tion. Where praise can be conscientiously mingled 
in a larger proportion than blame, there is always 
some amusement in throwing together our ideas 
upon the works of our feUow-labourers, and no in- 
justice in pubUshing them. On such occasions, and 
in our way, I may possibly, once or twice a-year, 
furnish my critical friends with an article.' 

'Sir Tristrem' was at length pubUshed on the 
2d of May 1804, by Constable, who, however, 

153 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

expected so little popularity for the work that the 
edition consisted only of 150 copies. These were 
sold at a high price (two guineas), otherwise they 
would not have been enough to cover the expenses 
of paper and printing. Mr. Ellis, and Scott's other 
antiquarian friends, were much dissatisfied with these 
arrangements ; but I doubt not that Constable was 
a better judge than any of them. The work, how- 
ever, partook in due time of the favour attending its 
editor's name. In 1806, 750 copies were called for ; 
and 1000 in 1811. After that time Sir Tristrem 
was included in the collective editions of Scott's 
poetry ; but he had never parted with the copyright, 
merely allowing his general publishers to insert it 
among his other works, whenever they chose to do 
so, as a matter of courtesy. It was not a performance 
from which he had ever anticipated any pecuniary 
profit, but it maintained at least, if it did not raise, 
his reputation in the circle of his fellow-antiquaries ; 
and his own Conclusion, in the manner of the original 
romance, must always be admired as a remarkable 
specimen of skill and dexterity. 

As to the arguments of the Introduction, I shall not 
in this place attempt any discussion.* Whether the 
story of Tristrem was first told in Welsh, Armorican, 
French, or English verse, there can, I think, be 
no doubt that it had been told in verse, with such 



* The critical reader will find all the learning on the subject brought 
together with much ability in the Preface to ' The Poetical Romances of 
Tristan, in French, in Anglo-Norman, and in Greek, composed in the 
Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries — Edited by Francisque Michel,* 2 vols. 
London, 1836. 



SIR TRISTREM— 1804 

success as to obtain very general renown, by Thomas 
of Ercildoune, and that the copy edited by Scott 
was either the composition of one who had heard 
the old Rhymer recite his lay, or the identical lay 
itself. The introduction of Thomas's name in the 
third person, as not the author, but the author's 
authority, appears to have had a great share in con- 
vincing Scott that the Auchinleck MS. contained 
not the original, but the copy of an English admirer 
and contemporary. This point seems to have been 
rendered more doubtful by some quotations in the 
recent edition of Warton's History of EngHsh Poetry; 
but the argument derived from the enthusiastic ex- 
clamation ' God help Sir Tristrem the knight — he 
fought for England,' still remains ; and stronger 
perhaps even than that, in the opinion of modern 
philologists, is the total absence of any Scottish or 
even Northumbrian peculiarities in the diction. 

All this controversy may be waived here. Scott's 
object and delight was to revive the fame of the 
Rhymer, whose traditional history he had listened to 
while yet an infant among the crags of SmaiUiolme. 
He had already celebrated him in a noble ballad;""" 
he now devoted a volume to elucidate a fragment 
supposed to be substantially his work ; and we shall 
find that thirty years after, when the lamp of his 
own genius was all but spent, it could still revive and 
throw out at least some glimmerings of its original 
brightness at the name of Thomas of Ercildoune. t 



* See the Minstrelsy (Edition 1833), vol. iv. p. 110. 
+ See Castle Dangerous, vol. xlvii. 



155 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 



CHAPTER XIII 

Removal to Ashestiel: Death of Captain Robert 
Scott: Mungo Park: Completion and Pitblica- 
tion of the Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

1804-1805 

It has been mentioned, that in the course of the 
preceding summer, the Lord-Lieutenant of Selkirk- 
shire complained of Scott's military zeal as inter- 
fering sometimes with the discharge of his shrieval 
functions, and took occasion to remind him, that the 
law, requiring every Sheriff to reside at least four 
months in the year within his own jurisdiction, had 
not hitherto been compUed with. It appears that 
Scott received this communication with some dis- 
pleasure, being conscious that no duty of any im- 
portance had ever been neglected by him ; well 
knowing that the law of residence was not enforced 
in the cases of many of his brother sheriffs ; and, in 
fact, ascribing his Lord-Lieutenant's complaint to 
nothing but a certain nervous fidget as to all points 
of form, for which that respectable nobleman was 
notorious, as well became, perhaps, an old High 
Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Kirk. 
Scott, however, must have been found so clearly 
in the wrong, had the case been submitted to the 
156 



ASHESTIEL— 1804 

Secretary of State, and Lord Napier conducted the 
correspondence with such courtesy, never failing to 
allege as a chief argument the pleasure which it 
would afford himself and the other gentlemen of 
Selkirkshire to have more of their Sheriff's society, 
that, while it would have been highly imprudent to 
persist, there could be no mortification in yielding. 
He flattered himself that his active habits would 
enable him to maintain his connexion with the 
Edinburgh Cavalry as usual ; and, perhaps, he also 
flattered himself, that residing for the summer in 
Selkirkshire would not interfere more seriously with 
his business as a barrister, than the occupation of 
the cottage at Lasswade had hitherto done. 

While he was seeking about, accordingly, for 
some ' lodge in the Forest,' his kinsman of Harden 
suggested that the tower of Auld Wat might be 
refitted, so as to serve his purpose ; and he received 
the proposal with enthusiastic delight. On a more 
careful inspection of the localities, however, he became 
sensible that he would be practically at a greater 
distance from county business of all kinds at 
Harden, than if he were to continue at Lasswade. 
Just at this time, the house of Ashestiel, situated on 
the southern bank of the Tweed, a few miles from 
Selkirk, became vacant by the death of its proprietor. 
Colonel Russell, who had married a sister of Scott's 
mother, and the consequent dispersion of the family. 
The young laird of Ashestiel, his cousin, was then 
in India ; and the Sheriff took a lease of the house 
and grounds, with a small farm adjoining. On the 
4th May, two days after the Tristrem had been 

157 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

published, he says to Ellis — 'I have been engaged 
in travelling backwards and forwards to Selkirkshire 
upon little pieces of business, just important enough 
to prevent my doing any thing to purpose. One 
great matter, however, I have achieved, which is, 
procuring myself a place of residence, which will 
save me these teasing migrations in future, so that 
though I part with my sweet Uttle cottage on the 
banks of the Esk, you will find me this summer in 
the very centre of the ancient Reged, in a decent 
farmhouse overhanging the Tweed, and situated in 
a wild pastoral country.' And again, on the 19th, 
he thus apologizes for not having answered a letter 
of the 10th : — ' For more than a month my head 
was fairly tenanted by ideas, which, though strictly 
pastoral and rural, were neither hterary nor poetical. 
Long sheep, and short sheep, and tups, and gimmers, 
and hogs, and dinmonts, had made a perfect sheep- 
fold of my xmderstanding, which is hardly yet cleared 
of them.* — I hope Mrs. Ellis will clap a bridle on 
her imagination. Ettrick Forest boasts finely shaped 



* Describing his meeting with Scott in the summer of 1801, James 
Hogg says — ' During the sociality of the evening, the discourse ran very 
much on the diiFerent breeds of sheep, that curse of the community of 
Ettrick Forest. The original black-faced Forest breed being always 
called the short sheep, and the Cheviot breed the long sheep, the disputes 
at that period ran very high about the practicable profits of each. Mr. 
Scott, who had come into that remote district to preserve what fragments 
remained of its legendary lore, was rather bored with everlasting 
questions of the long and the short sheep. So at length, putting on his 
most serious, calculating face, he turned to Mr. Walter Bryden, and 
said, "I am rather at a loss regarding the merits of this very important 
question. How long must a sheep actually measure to come under the 
denomination of a long sheep}" Mr. Bryden, who, in the simplicity of 



ASHESTIEL— 1804 

hills and clear romantic streams ; but, alas ! they 
are bare, to wildness, and denuded of the beautiful 
natural wood with which they were formerly shaded. 
It is mortifying to see that, though wherever the 
sheep are excluded, the copse has immediately sprung 
up in abundance, so that enclosures only are wanting 
to restore the wood wherever it might be useful or 
ornamental, yet hardly a proprietor has attempted 
to give it fair play for a resurrection. . . . You see 
we reckon positively on you — the more because our 
arch-critic Jeffrey tells me that he met you in 
London, and found you still incUned for a northern 
trip. All our wise men in the north are rejoiced at 
the prospect of seeing George Ellis. If you delay 
your journey tUl July, I shall then be free of the 
Courts of Law, and wiU meet you upon the Border, 
at whatever side you enter.' 

The business part of these letters refers to Scott's 
brother Daniel, who, as he expresses it, ' having 
been bred to the mercantile line, had been obliged, 
by some iintoward circumstances, particularly an 
imprudent connexion with an artful woman, to leave 
Edinburgh for Liverpool, and now to be casting his 
eyes towards Jamaica.' Scott requests Ellis to help 
him if he can, by introducing him to some of his 

his heart, neither perceived the quiz nor the reproof, fell to answer with 
great sincerity. "It's the woo' [wool], sir — it's the woo' that makes 
the difference. The lang sheep ha'e the short woo', and the short 
sheep ha'e the lang thing, and these are just kind o' names we 
gi'e them, like." Mr. Scott could not preserve his grave face of strict 
calculation : it went gradually awry, and a hearty guffaw ' [i.e. horse- 
laugh] 'followed. When I saw the very same words repeated near 
the beginning (p. 4) of the "Black Dwarf," how could I be mistaken 
of the author.?' — Autobiography prefixed to Hogg's Altrive Tales. 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

own friends or agents in that island : and Ellis 
furnishes him accordingly with letters to Mr. Black- 
burne, a friend and brother proprietor, who appears 
to have paid Daniel Scott every possible attention, 
and soon provided him with suitable employment on 
a healthy part of his estates. But the same low 
tastes and habits which had reduced the unfortunate 
young man to the necessity of expatriating himself, 
recurred after a brief season of penitence and order, 
and continued until he had accumulated great afflic- 
tion upon all his family. 

On the 10th of June 1804, died, at his seat of 
Rosebank, Captain Robert Scott, the affectionate 
uncle whose name has often occurred in this nar- 
rative.* ' He was,' says his nephew to Ellis, on the 
18th, ' a man of universal benevolence, and great 
kindness towards his friends, and to me individually. 
His manners were so much tinged with the habits 
of cehbacy as to render them peculiar, though by 
no means unpleasingly so, and his profession (that 
of a seaman) gave a high colouring to the whole. 
The loss is one which, though the course of nature 
led me to expect it, did not take place at last 
without considerable pain to my feelings. The 
arrangement of his affairs, and the distribution of 
his small fortune among his relations, will devolve 
in a great measure upon me. He has distinguished 
me by leaving me a beautiful Uttle villa on the 



* In the obituary of the Scots Magazine for this month I find — 
' Universally regretted, Captain Robert Scott of Rosebank, a gentleman 
whose life afforded an uniform example of unostentatious charity and 
extensive benevolence.' 

i6o 



DEATH OF CAPTAIN ROBERT SCOTT 

banks of the Tweed, with every possible convenience 
annexed to it, and about thui;y acres of the finest land 
in Scotland. Notwithstanding, however, the tempta- 
tion that this bequest offers, I continue to pursue my 
Reged plan, and expect to be settled at Ashestiel in 
the course of a month. Rosebank is situated so near 
the village of Kelso as hardly to be sufficiently 
a country residence; besides, it is hemmed in by 
hedges and ditches, not to mention Dukes and Lady 
Dowagers, which are bad things for little people. 
It is expected to sell to great advantage. I shall 
buy a mountain farm with the purchase-money, and 
be quite the Laird of the Cairn and the Scaur,' 

Scott sold Rosebank in the course of the year 
for £5000; his share (being a ninth) of his uncle's 
other property, amounted, I beheve, to about £500 ; 
and he had besides a legacy of £100 in his quahty 
of trustee. This bequest made an important change 
in his pecuniary position, and influenced accordingly 
the arrangements of his future hfe. Independently 
of practice at the bar, and of literary profits, he was 
now, with his httle patrimony, his Sheriffship, and 
about £200 per annum arising from the stock ulti- 
mately settled on his wife, in possession of a fixed 
revenue of nearly, if not quite, £1000 a-year. 

On the 1st of August he writes to Ellis from 
Ashestiel — ' Having had only about a hundred and 
fifty things to do, I have scarcely done any thing, 
and yet could not give myself leave to suppose that 
I had leisure to write letters. 1*^, I had this farm- 
house to furnish from sales, from brokers' shops, and 
from all manner of hospitals for incurable furniture. 
2 — L i6i 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

2dly, I had to let my cottage on the banks of the 
Esk. Qdly, I had to arrange matters for the sale of 
Rosebank. ^thly, I had to go into quarters with 
our cavalry, which made a very idle fortnight in 
the midst of all this business. Last of all, I had 
to superintend a removal, or what we call a flitting, 
which, of all bores under the cope of Heaven, is 
bore the most tremendous. After all these storms, 
we are now most comfortably settled, and have 
only to regret deeply our disappointment at finding 
your northern march blown up. We had been pro- 
jecting about twenty expeditions, and were pleasing 
ourselves at Mrs. Ellis's expected surprise on finding 
herself so totally built in by mountains, as I am 
at the present writing hereof. We are seven miles 
firom kirk and market. We rectify the last incon- 
venience by kilh'ng om: own mutton and poultry; 
and as to the former, finding there was some chance 
of my family turning pagans, I have adopted the 
goodly practice of reading prayers every Sunday, to 
the great edification of my household. Think of 
this, you that have the happiness to be within two 
steps of the church, and commiserate those who 
dwell in the wilderness. I showed Charlotte yester- 
day the Catrail, and told her that to inspect that 
venerable monument was one main object of your 
intended journey to Scotland. She is of opinion 
that ditches must be more scarce in the neighbour- 
hood of Windsor Forest than she had hitherto had 
the least idea o£' 

Ashestiel will be visited by many for his sake, as 
long as Waverley and Marmion are remembered. A 
162 



ASHESTIEL 

more beautiful situation for the residence of a poet 
could not be conceived. The house was then a small 
one, but, compared with the cottage at Lasswade, 
its accommodations were amply sufficient. You 
approached it through an old-fashioned garden, with 
holly hedges, and broad, green, terrace walks. On 
one side, close under the windows, is a deep ravine, 
clothed with venerable trees, down which a moun- 
tain rivulet is heard, more than seen, in its progress 
to the Tweed. The river itself is separated from 
the high bank on which the house stands only by a 
narrow meadow of the richest verdure. Opposite, 
and aU around, are the green hills. The valley 
there is narrow, and the aspect in every direction is 
that of perfect pastoral repose. The heights imme- 
diately behind are those which divide the Tweed 
from the Yarrow ; and the latter celebrated stream 
hes within an easy ride, in the course of which the 
traveller passes through a variety of the finest moun- 
tain scenery in the south of Scotland. No town is 
within seven miles but Selkirk, which was then still 
smaller and quieter than it is now ; there was hardly 
even a gentleman's family within visiting distance, 
except at Yair, a few miles lower on the Tweed, the 
ancient seat of the Pringles of Whytbank, and at 
Bowhill, between the Yarrow and Ettrick, where 
the Earl of Dalkeith used occasionally to inhabit a 
small shooting-lodge, which has since grown into 
a magnificent ducal residence. The country all 
around, with here and there an insignificant excep- 
tion, belongs to the Buccleuch estate ; so that, which- 
ever way he chose to turn, the bard of the clan had 

163 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

ample room and verge enough, and all appliances 
to boot, for every variety of field sport that might 
happen to please his fancy ; and being then in the 
prime vigour of manhood, he was not slow to profit 
by these advantages. Meantime, the concerns of 
his own httle farm, and the care of his absent rela- 
tion's woods, gave him healthful occupation in the 
intervals of the chase; and he had long, soUtary 
evenings for the uninterrupted exercise of his pen ; 
perhaps, on the whole, better opportunities of study 
than he had ever enjoyed before, or was to meet 
with elsewhere in later days. 

When he first examined Ashestiel, with a view to 
being his cousin's tenant, he thought of taking home 
James Hogg to superintend the sheep-farm, and 
keep watch over the house also during the winter. 
I am not able to tell exactly in what manner this 
proposal fell to the ground. In January 1804, the 
Shepherd writes to him : — ' I have no intention 
of waiting for so distant a prospect as that of being 
manager of your farm, though I have no doubt of 
our joint endeavour proving successful, nor yet of 
your willingness to employ me in that capacity. 
His grace the Duke of Buccleuch hath at present a 
farm vacant in Eskdale, and I have been importuned 
by friends to get a letter from you and apply for it 
You can hardly be conscious what importance your 
protection hath given me already, not only in mime 
own eyes, but even in those of others. You might 
write to him, or to any of the family you are best 
acquainted with, stating that such and such a 
character was about leaving his native country for 
T64 



ASHESTIEL— JAMES HOGG 

want of a residence in the farming line,' I am very 
doubtful if Scott — however willing to encounter the 
risk of employing Hogg as his own grieve or bailiff — 
would have felt himself justified at this, or, indeed, at 
any time, in recommending him as the tenant of a 
considerable farm on the Duke of Buccleuch's estate. 
But I am also quite at a loss to comprehend how 
Hogg should have conceived it possible, at this 
period, when he certainly had no capital whatever, 
that the Duke's Chamberlain should agree to accept 
him for a tenant, on any attestation, however strong, 
as to the excellence of his character and intentions. 
Be that as it may, if Scott made the apphcation 
which the Shepherd suggested, it failed. So did a 
negotiation which he certainly did enter upon about 
the same time with the late Earl of Caernarvon (then 
Lord Porchester), through that nobleman's aunt, 
Mrs, Scott of Harden, with the view of obtaining for 
Hogg the situation of bailiff on one of his Lordship's 
estates in the west of England ; and such, I believe, 
was the result of several other attempts of the same 
kind with landed proprietors nearer home. Perhaps the 
Shepherd had already set his heart so much on taking 
rank as a farmer in his own district, that he witnessed 
the failure of any such negotiations with indifference. 
As regards the management of Ashestiel, I find no 
trace of that proposal having ever been renewed. 

In truth, Scott had hardly been a week in posses- 
sion of his new domains, before he made acquaintance 
with a character much better suited to his purpose 
than James Hogg ever could have been, I mean 
honest Thomas Purdie, his faithful servant — his 

165 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

affectionately devoted humble friend from this time 
imtil death parted them. Tom was first brought 
before him, in his capacity of Sheriff, on a charge of 
poaching, when the poor fellow gave such a touching 
account of his circumstances, — a wife, and I know 
not how many children depending on his exertions 
— ^work scarce and grouse abundant, — and all this 
with a mixture of odd sly humour, — ^that the Sheriff's 
heart was moved. Tom escaped the penalty of the 
law — was taken into employment as shepherd, and 
showed such zeal, activity, and shrewdness in that 
capacity, that Scott never had any occasion to repent 
of the step he soon afterwards took, in promoting 
him to the position which had been originally offered 
to James Hogg. 

It was also about the same time that he took into 
his service as coachman Peter Mathieson, brother-in- 
law to Thomas Purdie, another faithful servant, who 
never afterwards left him, and still survives his kind 
master. Scott's awkward management of the Uttle 
phaeton had exposed his wife to more than one 
perilous overturn, before he agreed to set up a close 
carriage, and call in the assistance of this steady 
charioteer. 

During this autumn Scott formed the personal 
acquaintance of Mungo Park, the celebrated victim 
of African discovery. On his return from his first 
expedition. Park endeavoured to estabhsh himself 
as a medical practitioner in the town of Hawick, but 
the drudgeries of that calling in such a district soon 
exhausted his ardent temper, and he was now living 
in seclusion in his native cottage at FowlsheHs on 
1 66 



MUNGO PARK— 1804 

the Yarrow, nearly opposite Newark Castle. His 
brother, Archibald Park (then tenant of a large farm 
on the Buccleuch estate), a man remarkable for 
strength both of mind and body, introduced the 
traveller to the Sheriff. They soon became much 
attached to each other; and Scott supplied some 
interesting anecdotes of their brief intercourse to Mr. 
Wishaw, the editor of Park's posthumous Journal, 
with which I shall blend a few minor circumstances, 
gathered from him in conversation long afterwards. 
' On one occasion,' he says, ' the traveller communi- 
cated to him some very remarkable adventures which 
had befallen him in Africa, but which he had not 
recorded in his book.' On Scott's asking the cause 
of this silence, Mungo answered, ' That in aU cases 
where he had information to communicate, which 
he thought of importance to the pubUc, he had 
stated the facts boldly, leaving it to his readers 
to give such credit to his statements as they might 
appear justly to deserve; but that he would not 
shock their faith, or render his travels more mar- 
vellous, by introducing circumstances which, however 
true, were of little or no moment, as they related 
solely to his own personal adventures and escapes.' 
This reply struck Scott as highly characteristic of 
the man ; and though strongly tempted to set down 
some of these marvels for Mr. Wishaw's use, he 
on reflection abstained from doing so, holding it 
unfair to record what the adventurer had deliberately 
chosen to suppress in his own narrative. He con- 
firms the account given by Park's biographer, of his 
cold and reserved manners to strangers; and in 

167 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

particular of his disgust with the indirect questions 
which curious visitors would often put to him upon 
the subject of his travels. ' This practice,' said 
Mungo, ' exposes me to two risks ; either that I may 
not understand the questions meant to be put, or 
that my answers to them may be misconstrued ' ; 
and he contrasted such conduct with the frankness 
of Scott's revered friend, Dr. Adam Ferguson, who, 
the very first day the traveller dined with him at 
Hallyards, spread a large map of Africa on the 
table, and made him trace out his progress there- 
upon, inch by inch, questioning him minutely as to 
every step he had taken. 'Here, however,' says 
Scott, ' Dr. F. was using a privilege to which he was 
well entitled by his venerable age and high Uterary 
character, but which could not have been exercised 
with propriety by any common stranger.' 

Calling one day at FowlsheUs, and not finding 
Park at home, Scott walked in search of him along 
the banks of the Yarrow, which in that neighbour- 
hood passes over various ledges of rock, forming 
deep pools and eddies between them. Presently he 
discovered his friend standing alone on the bank, 
plunging one stone after another into the water, and 
watching anxiously the bubbles as they rose to the 
surface. 'This,' said Scott, 'appears but an idle 
amusement for one who has seen so much stirring 
adventure.' 'Not so idle, perhaps, as you suppose,' 
answered Mungo : — ' This was the manner in which 
I used to ascertain the depth of a river in Africa 
before I ventured to cross it — judging whether the 
attempt would be safe, by the time the bubbles 
i68 



MUNGO PARK— 1804 

of air took to ascend.' At this time Park's intention 
of a second expedition had never been revealed to 
Scott; but he instantly formed the opinion that 
these experiments on Yarrow were connected with 
some such purpose. 

His thoughts had always continued to be haunted 
with Africa. He told Scott, that whenever he 
awoke suddenly in the night, owing to a nervous 
disorder with which he was troubled, he fancied 
himself still a prisoner in the tent of AU ; but when 
the poet expressed some surprise that he should 
design again to revisit those scenes, he answered, 
that he would rather brave Africa and all its horrors, 
than wear out his hfe in long and toilsome rides ovier 
the hills of Scotland, for which the remuneration was 
hardly enough to keep soul and body together. 

Towards the end of the autumn, when about to 
quit his country for the last time. Park paid Scott a 
farewell visit, and slept at Ashestiel. Next morning 
his host accompanied him homewards over the wild 
chain of hills between the Tweed and the Yarrow. 
Park talked much of his new scheme, and mentioned 
his determination to teU his family that he had some 
business for a day or two in Edinburgh, and send 
them his blessing from thence, without returning 
to take leave. He had married, not long before, a 
pretty and amiable woman ; and when they reached 
the Williamhope ridge, 'the autumnal mist floating 
heavily and slowly down the valley of the Yarrow,' 
presented to Scott's imagination * a striking emblem 
of the troubled and uncertain prospect which his 
undertaking afforded.' He remained, however, un- 

169 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

shaken, and at length they reached the spot at 
which they had agreed to separate. A small ditch 
divided the moor from the road, and, in going over 
it. Park's horse stumbled, and nearly felL 'I am 
afraid, Mmigo,' said the Sheriff, 'that is a bad 
omen.' To which he answered, smiling, ' Freits 
(omens) follow those who look to them.' With this 
expression Mimgo struck the spurs into his horse, 
and Scott never saw him again. His parting pro- 
verb, by the way, was probably suggested by one of 
the Border ballads, in which species of lore he was 
almost as great a proficient as the Sheriff himself; 
for we read in ' Edom o' Gordon,' — 

' Them look to freits, my master dear. 
Then freits will follow them.' 

I must not omit that George Scott, the unfor- 
tunate companion of Park's second journey, was the 
son of a tenant on the Buccleuch estate, whose skill 
in drawing having casually attracted the Sheriff's 
attention, he was recommended by him to the pro- 
tection of the family, and by this means established 
in a respectable situation in the Ordnance department 
of the Tower of London ; but the stories of his old 
acquaintance Mungo Park's discoveries, had made 
such an impression on his fancy, that nothing could 
prevent his accompanying him on the fatal expedi- 
tion of 1805. 

The brother of Mungo Park remained in Scott's 

neighbourhood for some years, and was frequently 

his companion in his mountain rides. Though a man 

of the most dauntless temperament, he was often 

170 



LETTER TO ELLIS— AUGUST 1804 

alarmed at Scott's reckless horsemanship. 'The 
de'U 's in ye, Sherra,' he would say, « ye 'II never halt 
till they bring you hame with your feet foremost.' 
He rose greatly in favour, in consequence of the 
gallantry with which he assisted the Sheriff in seizing 
a gipsy, accused of murder, from amidst a group of 
similar desperadoes, on whom they had come unex- 
pectedly in a desolate part of the country. 

To return to The Lay of the Last Minstrel: — 
EUis, understanding it to be now nearly ready for 
the press, writes to Scott, urging him to set it forth 
with some engraved illustrations — if possible, after 
Flaxman, whose splendid designs from Homer had 
shortly before made their appearance. He answers, 
August 21 — ' I should have hked very much to 
have had appropriate embellishments. Indeed, we 
made some attempts of the kind, but they did not 
succeed. I should fear Flaxman's genius is too 
classic to stoop to body forth my Gothic Borderers. 
Would there not be some risk of their resembling 
the antique of Homer's heroes, rather than the iron 
race of Salvator? After all, perhaps, nothing is 
more difficult than for a painter to adopt the author's 
ideas of an imaginary character, especially when it 
is founded on traditions to which the artist is a 
stranger. I should Uke at least to be at his elbow 
when at work. I wish very much I could have 
sent you the Lay while in MS., to have had the 
advantage of your opinion and corrections. But 
Ballantyne galled my kibes so severely during an 
unusual fit of activity, that I gave him the whole 
story in a sort of pet both with him and with it. . . . 

171 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

I have lighted upon a very good amanuensis for 
copying such matters as the Lay le Frain, etc. He 
was sent down here hy some of the London book- 
sellers in a half starved state, but begins to pick up 
a Uttle. ... I am just about to set out on a grand 
expedition of great importance to my comfort in 
this place. You must know that Mr. Plummer, my 
predecessor in this county, was a good antiquary, 
and left a valuable collection of books, which he 
entailed with the estate, the first successors being 
three of his sisters, at least as old and musty as any 
Caxton or Wynkyn de Worde in his hbrary. Now I 
must contrive to coax those watchful dragons to give 
me admittance into this garden of the Hesperides. 
I suppose they trouble the volumes as little as the 
dragon did the golden pippins; but they may not 
be the more easily soothed on that account. How- 
ever, I set out on my quest, hke a preiuc chevalier, 
taking care to leave Camp, for dirtjdng the carpet, and 
to carry the greyhounds with me, whose appearance 
will indicate that hare soup may be forthcoming in 
due season. By the way, did I tell you that Fitz- 
Camp is dead, and another on the stocks ? As our 
stupid postman might mistake Reged, address, as per 
date, Ashestiel, Selkirk, by Berwick.' 

I believe the spinsters of Sunderland haU proved 
very generous dragons ; and Scott hved to see them 
succeeded in the guardianship of Mr. Plummer's 
hterary treasures by an amiable young gentleman 
of his own name and family. The half-starved 
amanuensis of this letter was Henry Weber, a 
172 



ASHESTIEL— 1804 

laborious German, of whom we shall hear more 
hereafter. With regard to the pictorial embellish- 
ments contemplated for the first edition of the Lay 
of the Last Minstrel, I believe the artist in whose 
designs the poet took the greatest interest was 
Mr. Masquerier, now of Brighton, with whom he 
corresponded at some length on the subject ; but his 
distance from that ingenious gentleman's residence 
was inconvenient, and the booksellers were probably 
impatient of delay, when the MS. was once known 
to be in the hands of the printer. 

There is a circumstance which must already have 
struck such of my readers as knew the author in 
his latter days, namely, the readiness with which 
he seems to have communicated this poem, in its 
progress, not only to his own familiar friends, but 
to new and casual acquaintances. We shall find him 
following the same course with his Marmion — but 
not, I think, with any of his subsequent works. His 
determination to consult the movements of his own 
mind alone in the conduct of his pieces, was probably 
taken before he began the Lay; and he soon resolved 
to trust for the detection of minor inaccuracies to 
two persons only — ^James BaUantyne and WilUam 
Erskine. The printer was himself a man of con- 
siderable literary talents; his own style had the 
incurable faults of pomposity and affectation, but his 
eye for more venial errors in the writings of others 
was quick, and, though his personal address was 
apt to give a stranger the impression of insincerity, 
he was in reahty an honest man, and conveyed his 
mind on such matters with equal candour and 

173 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

delicacy during the whole of Scott's brilliant career. 
In the vast majority of instances he found his friend 
acquiesce at once in the propriety of his suggestions ; 
nay, there certainly were cases, though rare, in which 
his advice to alter things of much more consequence 
than a word or a rhyme, was frankly tendered, and 
on deliberation adopted by Scott. Mr. Erskine was 
the referee whenever the poet hesitated about taking 
the hints of the zealous typographer ; and his refined 
taste and gentle manners rendered his critical alliance 
highly valuable. With two such faithful friends 
within his reach, the author of the Lay might 
safely dispense with sending his MS. to be revised 
even by George EUis. 

Before he left Ashestiel for the winter session, the 
printing of the poem had made considerable progress. 
Ellis writes to him on the 10th November, com- 
plaining of bad health, and adds — 'Tu quid agis ? 
I suppose you are still an inhabitant of Reged, and 
being there it is impossible that your head should 
have been solely occupied by the ten thousand cares 
which you are likely to have in common with other 
mortals, or even by the Lay, which must have been 
long since completed, but must have started diuring 
the summer new projects sufficient to employ the 
lives of half-a-dozen patriarchs. Pray tell me aU 
about it, for as the present state of my frame pre- 
cludes me from^ much activity, I want to enjoy that 
of my friends.' Scott answers from Edinburgh: — 
* I fear you fall too much into the sedentary habits 
incident to a literary life, like my poor friend 
Plummer, who used to say that a walk from the 
174 



ASHESTIEL— 1804 

parlour to the garden once a-day was sufficient 
exercise for any rational being, and that no one but 
a fool or a fox-hunter would take more. I wish 
you could have had a seat on Hassan's tapestry, 
to have brought Mrs. Ellis and you soft and fair to 
Ashestiel, where, with farm mutton at 4 p.m., and 
goat's whey at 6 a.m., I think we could have re- 
established as much embonpoint as ought to satisfy a 
poetical antiquary. As for my country amusements, 
I have finished the Lay, with which and its accom- 
panying notes the press now groans; but I have 
started nothing except some scores of hares, many 
of which my gallant greyhounds brought to the 
ground.' 

Ellis had also touched upon a literary feud then 
raging between Scott's allies of the Edinburgh Re- 
view, and the late Dr. Thomas Young, illustrious 
for inventive genius, displayed equally in physical 
science and in philological literature. A northern 
critic, whoever he was, had treated with merry 
contempt certain discoveries, in natural philosophy 
and the mechanical arts, more especially that of the 
imdulating theory of hght, which ultimately conferred 
on Yotmg's name one of its highest ^stinctions. 
' He had been for some time,' says EUis, ' lecturer 
at the Royal Institution; and having determined 
to publish his lectures, he had received from one of 
the booksellers the offer of £1000 for the copyright. 
He was actually preparing for the press, when the 
bookseller came to him, and told him that the ridicule 
thrown by the Edinburgh Review on some papers 
of his in the Philosophical Transactions, had so 

175 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

frightened the whole trade that he must request 
to be released from his bargain. This consequence, 
it is true, could not have been foreseen by the re- 
viewer, who, however, appears to have written from 
feelings of private animosity; and I still continue 
to think, though I greatly admire the good taste 
of the Uterary essays, and the perspicuity of the 
dissertations on political economy, that an apparent 
want of candour is too generally the character of a 
work which, from its independence on the interests 
of booksellers, might have been expected to be 
particularly free from this defect.' Scott rejoins — 
' I am sorry for the very pitiful catastrophe of 
Dr. Young's publication, because, although I am 
altogether unacquainted with the merits of the con- 
troversy, one must always regret so very serious a 
consequence of a diatribe. The truth is, that these 
gentlemen reviewers ought often to read over the 
fable of the boys and frogs, and should also remember 
it is much more easy to destroy than to build, to 
criticise than to compose. While on this subject, 
I kiss the rod of my critic in the Edinburgh, on the 
subject of the price of Sir Tristrem ; it was not my 
fault, however, that the pubhc had it not cheap 
enough, as I declined taking any copy-money, or 
share in the profits ; and nothing, surely, was as 
reasonable a charge as I could make.' 

On the 30th December he resumes — * The Lay 
is now ready, and wiU probably be in Longman and 
Rees's hands shortly after this comes to yours. I 
have charged them to send you a copy by the first 
conveyance, and shall be impatient to know whether 
176 




HOBEHT MACOUEEN, LORD BEAXFIELD , 

PAINTED BV SIR HETTRYRABBURN R,A « 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

you think the entire piece corresponds to that which 
you have already seen. I would also fain send a 
copy to Gifford, by way of introduction, — My reason 
is that I understand he is about to publish an edition 
of Beaumont and Fletcher, and I think I could offer 
him the use of some miscellaneous notes, which 
I made long since on the margin of their works.* 
Besides, I have a good esteem of Mr. Gifford as a 
manly English poet, very different from most of 
oiu* modem versifiers. — We are so fond of Reged, 
that we are just going to set out for our farm in the 
middle of a snow-storm ; all that we have to comfort 
ourselves with is, that our march has been ordered 
with great military talent — a detachment of minced 
pies and brandy having preceded us. In case we 
are not buried in a snow-wreath, our stay wiU be 
but short. Should that event happen, we must wait 
the thaw.' 

Ellis, not having as yet received the new poem, 
answers, on the 9th January 1805 — 'I look daily 
and with the greatest anxiety for the Last Minstrel 
— of which I still hope to see a future edition 
decorated with designs a la Flaxman, as the Lays 
of Homer have already been. I think you told me 
that Sir Tristrem had not excited much sensation 
in Edinburgh. As I have not been in London this 



* It was his Massinger that Gifford had at this time in hand. His 
Ben Jonson followed, and then his Ford. Some time later, he projected 
editions, both of Beaumont and Fletcher, and of Shakspear'e ; but, to the 
grievous misfortune of literature, died without having completed either 
of them. We shall see presently what became of Scott's Notes on 
Beaumont and Fletcher. 

2 — M ^77 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

age, I can't produce the contrary testimony of our 
metropolis. But I can produce one person, and 
that one worth a considerable number, who speaks 
of it with rapture, and says, " I am only sorry that 
Scott has not (and I am svire he has not) told us 
the whole of his creed on the subject of Tomas, and 
the other early Scotch Minstrels. I suppose he was 
afraid of the critics, and determined to say very little 
more than he was able to establish by incontestable 
proofs. I feel infinitely obliged to him for what 
he has told us, and I have no hesitation in saying, 
that I consider Sir T. as by far the most interesting 
work that has as yet been published on the subject 
of our earliest poets, and, indeed, such a piece of 
literary antiquity as no one could have, a priori, 
supposed to exist." This is Frere — our ex-ambas- 
sador for Spain, whom you would delight to know, 
and who would delight to know you. It is remark- 
able that you were, I believe, the most ardent of all 
the admirers of his old English version of the Saxon 
Ode ; * and he is, per contra, the warmest panegyrist 
of your Conclusion, which he can repeat by heart. 



* ' I have only met, in my researches into these matters,' says Scott in 
1830, 'with one poem, which if it had heen produced as ancient, could 
not have been detected on internal evidence. It is the War Song upon 
the Victory at Brunnanburgh, translated from the Anglo-Saxon into 
Anglo-Norman, by the Right Hon. John Hookham Frere. See Ellis's 
Specimens of Ancient English Poetry, vol. i. p. 32. The accomplished 
editor tells us, that this very singular poem was intended as an imitation 
of the style and language of the fourteenth century, and was written 
during the controversy occasioned by the poems attributed to Rowley. 
Mr. Ellis adds — " The reader will probably hear with some surprise, 
that this singular instance of critical ingenuity was the composition of an 
Eton schoolboy." ' — Essay on Imitations oj the Ancient Ballad, p. 19. 
178 



JOHN HOOKHAM FRERE 

and affirms to be the very best imitation of old 
English at present existing. I think I can trust 
you for having concluded the Last Minstrel with 
as much spirit as it was begun — ^if you have been 
capable of any thing unworthy of your fame amidst 
the highest mountains of Reged, there is an end 
of aU inspiration.' 

Scott answers — ' Frere is so perfect a master 
of the ancient style of composition, that I would 
rather have his suffrage than that of a whole sjTiod 
of your vulgar antiquaries. The more I think on our 
system of the origin pf Romance, the more simphcity 
and uniformity it seems to possess ; and though I 
adopted it late and with hesitation, I believe I shall 
never see cause to abandon it. Yet I am aware 
of the danger of attempting to prove, where proofs 
are but scanty, and probable suppositions must be 
placed in Ueu of them. I think the Welsh anti- 
quaries have considerably injured their claims to 
confidence, by attempting to detail very remote 
events with all the accuracy belonging to the facts 
of yesterday. You will hear one of them describe 
you the cut of Llywarch Hen's beard, or the whittle 
of Urien Reged, as if he had trimmed the one, or 
cut his cheese with the other. These high preten- 
sions weaken greatly our belief in the Welsh poems, 
which probably contain real treasures. 'Tis a pity 
some sober-minded man wUl not take the trouble 
to sift the wheat from the chaff, and give us a good 
account of their MSS. and traditions. Pray, what 
is become of the Mahinogioni It is a proverb, 
that children and fools talk truth, and I am mistaken 

179 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

if even the same valuable quality may not sometimes 
be extracted out of the tales made to entertain both. 
I presume, while we talk of childish and fooHsh 
tales, that the Lay is already with you, although, in 
these points, Long-manum est errare. Pray enquire 
for your copy.' 

In the first week of January 1805, ' The Lay' was 
published ; and its success at once decided that Utera- 
ture should form the main business of Scott's life. 

In his modest Introduction of 1830, he had him- 
self told us all that he thought the world would ever 
desire to know of the origin and progress of this 
his first great original production. The present 
Memoir, however, has already included many minor 
particulars, for which I believe no student of Utera- 
ture wiU reproach the compiler. I shall not mock 
the reader with many words as to the merits of a 
poem which has now kept its place for nearly a third 
of a century ; but one or two additional remarks on 
the history of the composition may be pardoned. 

It is curious to trace the small beginnings and 
gradual developement of his design. The lovely 
Countess of Dalkeith hears a wild rude legend of 
Border diablerie, and sportively asks him to make 
it the subject of a ballad. He had been already 
labouring in the elucidation of the ' quaint Inghs ' 
ascribed to an ancient seer and bard of the same 
district, and perhaps completed his own sequel, in- 
tending the whole to be included in the third volume 
of the Minstrelsy. He assents to Lady Dalkeith's 
request, and casts about for some new variety of 
diction and rhyme, which might be adopted without 
1 80 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

impropriety in a closing strain for the same collec- 
tion. Sir John Stoddart's casual recitation, a year 
or two before, of Coleridge's unpublished Christabel, 
had fixed the music of that noble fragment in his 
memory ; and it occurs to him, that by throwing the 
story of Gilpin Horner into somewhat of a similar 
cadence, he might produce such an echo of the later 
metrical romance, as would serve to connect his 
Conclusion of the primitive Sir Tristrem with his 
imitations of the common popular ballad in the Gray 
Brother and Eve of St. John. A single scene of 
feudal festivity in the haU of Branksome, disturbed 
by some pranks of a nondescript goblin, was probably 
all that he contemplated; but his accidental con- 
finement in the midst of a volunteer camp gave him 
leisure to meditate his theme to the sound of the 
bugle ; — and suddenly there flashes on him the idea 
of extending his simple outline, so as to embrace a 
vivid panorama of that old Border life of war and 
tumult, and all earnest passions, with which his 
researches on the ' Minstrelsy ' had by degrees fed 
his imagination, until every the minutest feature 
had been taken home and realized with unconscious 
intenseness of sympathy ; so that he had won 
for himself in the past, another world, hardly less 
complete or familiar than the present. Erskine or 
Cranstoun suggests that he would do well to divide 
the poem into cantos, and prefix to each of them 
a motto explanatory of the action, after the fashion 
of Spenser in the Faery Queen. He pauses for a 
moment — and the happiest conception of the frame- 
work of a picturesque narrative that ever occurred 

i8i 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

to any poet — one that Homer might have envied — 
the creation of the ancient harper, starts to life. By 
such steps did the ' Lay of the Last Minstrel ' grow 
out of the ' Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border.' 

A word more of its feUcitous machinery. It was 
at Bowhill that the Countess of Dalkeith requested 
a ballad on Gilpin Homer. The ruined castle of 
Newark closely adjoins that seat, and is now indeed 
included within its pleasance. Newark had been the 
chosen residence of the first Duchess of Buccleuch, 
and he accordingly shadows out his own beautiful 
friend in the person of her lord's ancestress, the last 
of the original stock of that great house ; himself 
the favoured inmate of Bowhill, introduced certainly 
to the familiarity of its circle in consequence of his 
devotion to the poetry of a bypast age, in that of an 
aged minstrel, 'the last of aU the race,' seekLog 
shelter at the gate of Newark, ia days when many 
an adherent of the fallen cause of Stuart, — ^his own 
bearded ancestor, who had fought at Killiekrankie, 
among the rest, — owed their safety to her who 

' In pride of power, in beauty's bloom. 
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb.' 

The arch allusions which run through all these 
Introductions, without in the least interrupting the 
truth and graceful pathos of their main impression, 
seem to me exquisitely characteristic of Scott, whose 
delight and pride was to play with the genius which 
nevertheless mastered him at will. For, in truth, 
what is it that gives to all his works their unique 
and marking charm, except the matchless effect 
t82 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

which sudden effusions of the purest heart-blood of 
nature derive from their being poured out, to all 
appearance involuntarily, amidst diction and senti- 
ment cast equally in the mould of the busy world, 
and the seemingly habitual desire to dweU on nothing 
but what might be Ukely to excite curiosity, without 
too much disturbing deeper feelings, in the saloons 
of polished life ? Such outbursts come forth dramati- 
cally in all his writings ; but in the interludes and 
passionate parentheses of the Lay of the Last Minstrel 
we have the poet's own inner soul and temperament 
laid bare and throbbing before us. Even here, indeed, 
he has a mask, and he trusts it — but fortunately it is 
a transparent one. 

Many minor personal allusions have been explained 
in the notes to the last edition of the ' Lay.' It was 
hardly necessary even then to say that the choice of 
the hero had been dictated by the poet's affection 
for the hving descendants of the Baron of Cranstoun; 
and now — none who have perused the preceding 
pages can doubt that he had dressed out his Margaret 
of Branksome in the form and features of his own first 
love. This poem may be considered as the ' bright 
consummate flower ' in which aU the dearest dreams 
of his youthful, fancy had at length found expansion 
for their strength, spirit, tenderness, and beauty. 

In the closing lines — 

' Hush'd is the harp — the Minstrel gone ; 
And did he wander forth alone ? 
Alone, in indigence and age. 
To linger out his pilgrimage ? 
No ! — close beneath proud Newark's tower 
Arose the Minstrel's humble bower,' etc. — 

183 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

— in these charming lines he has embodied what 
was, at the time when he penned them, the chief 
day-dream of Ashestiel. From the moment that his 
uncle's death placed a considerable sum of ready 
money at his command, he pleased himself, as we 
have seen, with the idea of buying a mountain farm, 
and becoming not only the ' sheriff' (as he had in 
former days delighted to call himself), but 'the 
laird of the cairn and the scaur.' While he was 
' labouring doucement at the Lay ' (as in one of his 
letters he expresses it), during the recess of 1804, 
circumstances rendered it next to certain that the 
small estate of Broadmeadows, situated just over 
against the ruins of Newark, on the northern bank 
of the Yarrow, would soon be exposed to sale ; and 
many a time did he ride round it in company with 
Lord and Lady Dalkeith, 

' When summer smiled on sweet Bowhill,' 

surveying the beautiful Uttle domain with wistful 
eyes, and anticipating that 

' There would he sing achievement high 
And circumstance of chivalry. 
Till the 'rapt traveller would stay. 
Forgetful of the closing day ; 
And noble youths, the strain to hear. 
Forget the hunting of the deer ; 
And Yarrow, as he rolled along. 
Bear burden to the Minstrel's song.' 

I consider it as, in one point of view, the greatest 

misfortune of his life that this vision was not realized ; 

but the success of the poem itself changed ' the spirit 

of his dream.' The favour which it at once attained 

184 



Lay of the last minstrel 

had not been equalled in the case of any one poem of 
considerable length during at least two generations : 
it certainly had not been approached in the case of 
any narrative poem since the days of Dryden. Before 
it was sent to the press it had received warm 
commendation from the ablest and most influential 
critic of the time ; but when Mr. Jeffrey's reviewal 
appeared, a month after pubhcation, laudatory as its 
language was, it scarcely came up to the opinion 
which had already taken root in the pubhc mind. 
It, however, quite satisfied the author ; and were I 
at hberty to insert some letters which passed between 
them in the course of the summer of 1805, it would 
be seen that their feelings towards each other were 
those of mutual confidence and gratitude. Indeed, 
a severe domestic affliction which about this time 
befell Mr. Jeffrey, called out the expression of such 
sentiments on both sides in a very touching manner. 
I abstain from transcribing the letters which con- 
veyed to Scott the private opinions of persons 
themselves eminently distinguished in poetry; but I 
think it just to state, that I have not discovered in 
any of them — ^no, not even in those of Wordsworth 
or Campbell — a strain of approbation higher on the 
whole than that of the chief professional reviewer of 
the period. When the happy days of youth are over, 
even the most genial and generous of minds are 
seldom able to enter into the strains of a new poet 
with that full and open dehght which he awakens 
in the bosoms of the rising generation about him. 
Their deep and eager sympathies have aheady been 
drawn upon to an extent of which the prosaic part 

185 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of the species can never have any conception ; and 
when the fit of creative inspiration has subsided, 
they are apt to be rather cold critics even of their 
own noblest appeals to the simple primary feelings 
of their kind. Miss Seward's letter, on this occasion, 
has been since included in the printed collection 
of her correspondence ; but perhaps the reader may 
form a sufficient notion of its tenor from the poet's 
answer — ^which, at all events, he will be amused to 
compare with the Introduction of 1830 : — 

' To Miss Seward, Lichfield. 

'Edinburgh, 21st March 1805. 

' My Dear Miss Seward, 

' I am truly happy that you found any amuse- 
ment in the Lay of the Last Minstrel. It has great 
faults, of which no one can be more sensible than I 
am myself. Above all, it is deficient in that sort of 
continuity which a story ought to have, and which, 
were it to write again, I would endeavour to give it. 
But I began and wandered forward, like one in a 
pleasant country, getting to the top of one hill to 
see a prospect, and to the bottom of another to 
enjoy a shade, and what wonder if my course has 
been devious and desultory, and many of my excur- 
sions altogether unprofitable to the advance of my 
journey? The Dwarf Page is also an excrescence, 
and I plead guilty to all the censures concerning 
him. The truth is, he has a history, and it is this : 
The story of Gilpin Homer was told by an old 

1 86 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

gentleman to Lady Dalkeith, and she, much diverted 
with his actually believing so grotesque a tale, in- 
sisted that I should make it into a Border ballad. 
I don't know if ever you saw my lovely chieftainess 
— ^if you have, you must be aware that it is impossible 
for any one to refuse her request, as she has more 
of the angel in face and temper than any one alive ; 
so that if she had asked me to write a ballad on 
a broomstick, I must have attempted it. I began a 
few verses, to be called the Goblin Page ; and they 
lay long by me, till the applause of some friends 
whose judgment I valued induced me to resume the 
poem ; so on I wrote, knowing no more than the 
man in the moon how I was to end. At length 
the story appeared so uncouth, that I was fain to 
put it into the mouth of my old minstrel — lest the 
nature of it should be misunderstood, and I should 
be suspected of setting up a new school of poetry, 
instead of a feeble attempt to imitate the old. In 
the process of the romance, the page, intended to be 
a principal person in the work, contrived (from the 
baseness of his natm-al propensities I suppose) to 
slink down stairs into the kitchen, and now he must 
e'en abide there. 

' I mention these circumstances to you, and to any 
one whose applause I value, because I am unwilling 
you should suspect me of trifling with the public 
in malice prepense. As to the herd of critics, it is 
impossible for me to pay much attention to them ; 
for, as they do not understand what I call poetry, 
we talk in a foreign language to each other. Indeed, 
many of these gentlemen appear to me to be a sort 

187 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of tinkers, who, unable to Tnake pots and pans, set 
up for menders of them, and, God knows, often 
make two holes in patching one. The sixth canto 
is altogether redundant; for the poem should cer- 
tainly have closed with the union of the lovers, 
when the interest, if any, was at an end. But what 
could I do ? I had my book and my page still on 
my hands, and must get rid of them at all events. 
Manage them as I would, their catastrophe must 
have been insufficient to occupy an entire canto; 
so I was fain to eke it out with the songs of the 
minstrels. I will now descend from the confessional, 
which I think I have occupied long enough for the 
patience of my fair confessor. I am happy you are 
disposed to give me absolution, notwithstanding all 
my sins. 

' We have a new poet come forth amongst us — 
James Graham, author of a poem called the Sabbath, 
which I admire very much. If I can find an oppor- 
tunity, I will send you a copy. Your affectionate 
humble servant, Walter Scott.' 

Mr. EUis does not seem to have written at any 
length on the subject of the Lay, until he had per- 
used the article in the Edinburgh Review. He then 
says — ' Though I had previously made up my mind, 
or rather perhaps because I had done so, I was very 
anxious to compare my sentiments with those of the 
Edinburgh critic, and I found that in general we 
were perfectly agreed, though there are parts of the 
subject which we consider from very different points 
of view. Frere, with whom I had not any previous 
1 88 



ELLIS AND FRERE ON THE LAY 

communication about it, agrees with me ; and trust- 
ing very much to the justice of his poetical feelings, 
I feel some degree of confidence in my own judg- 
ment — ^though in opposition to Mr. Jeffrey, whose 
criticism I admire upon the whole extremely, as 
being equally acute and impartial, and as exhibiting 
the fairest judgment respecting the work that could 
be formed by the mere assistance of good sense 
and general taste, without that particular sort of 
taste which arises from the study of romantic com- 
positions. 

' What Frere and myself think, must be stated in 
the shape of a hypercriticism — that is to say, of a 
review of the reviewer. We say that the Lay of 
the Last Minstrel is a work sui generis, written with 
the intention of exhibiting what our old romances do 
indeed exhibit in point of fact, but incidentally, and 
often without the wish, or rather contrary to the 
wish of the author ; — viz, the manners of a particular 
age ; and that therefore, if it does this truly, and is 
at the same time capable of keeping the steady 
attention of the reader, it is so far perfect. This is 
also a poem, and ought therefore to contain a great 
deal of poetical merit. This indeed it does by the 
admission of the reviewer, and it must be admitted 
that he has shown much real taste in estimating the 
most beautiful passages ; but he finds fault with 
many of the lines as careless, with some as prosaic, 
and contends that the story is not sufficiently full of 
incident, and that one of the incidents is borrowed 
from a merely local superstition, etc. etc. To this 
we answer — 1*^, That if the Lay were intended to 

189 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

give any idea of the Minstrel compositions, it would 
have been a most glaring absurdity to have rendered 
the poetry as perfect and uniform as the works 
usually submitted to modern readers — and as in 
telling a story, nothing, or very httle, woxild be lost, 
though the merely connecting part of the narrative 
were in plain prose, the reader is certainly no loser 
by the incorrectness of the smaller parts. Indeed, 
who is so unequal as Dryden ? It may be said that 
he was not intentionally so — but to be very smooth 
is very often to be tame ; and though this should be 
admitted to be a less important fault than inequality 
in a common modern poem, there can be no doubt 
with respect to the necessity of subjecting yourself 
to the latter fault (if it is one) in an imitation of an 
ancient model. 2d, Though it is naturally to be 
expected that many readers wiU expect an almost 
infinite accumulation of incidents in a romance, this 
is only because readers in general have acquired all 
their ideas on the subject from the prose romances, 
which commonly contained a farrago of metrical 
stories. The only thing essential to a romance was, 
that it should be believed by the hearers. Not only 
tournaments, but battles, are indeed accumulated in 
some of our ancient romances, because tradition had 
of course ascribed to every great conqueror a great 
number of conquests, and the minstrel would have 
been thought deficient, if, in a warlike age, he had 
omitted any miMtary event But in other respects 
a paucity of incident is the general characteristic of 
our minstrel poems. Sd, With respect to the Goblin 
Page, it is by no means necessary that the superstition 
190 



ELLIS AND FRERE ON THE LAY 

on which this is founded should be universally or 
even generally current. It is quite sufficient that 
it should exist somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
the castle where the scene is placed; and it cannot 
fairly be required, that because the goblin is mis- 
chievous, all his tricks should be directed to the 
production of general evil. The old idea of goblins 
seems to have been, that they were essentially active, 
and careless about the mischief they produced, rather 
than providentially malicious. 

' We therefore {i.e. Frere and myself) dissent from 
all the reviewer's objections to these circumstances in 
the narrative ; but we entertain some doubts about 
the propriety of dwelling so long on the Minstrel 
songs in the last canto. I say we doubt, because we 
are not aware of your having ancient authority for 
such a practice ; but though the attempt was a bold 
one, inasmuch as it is not usual to add a whole canto 
to a story which is already finished, we are far from 
wishing that you had left it unattempted. I must 
tell you the answer of a philosopher (Sir Henry 
Englefield) to a friend of his who was criticising the 
obscurity of the language used in the Minstrel. " I 
read httle poetry, and often am in doubt whether I 
exactly understand the poet's meaning ; but I found, 
after reading the Minstrel three times, that I under- 
stood it all perfectly." " Three times ? " rephed his 
friend. " Yes, certainly ; the first time I discovered 
that there was a great deal of meaning in it ; a second 
would have cleared it aU up, but that I was run 
away with by the beautiful passages, which distracted 
my attention ; the third time I skipped over these, 

191 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and only attended to the scheme and structxu-e of 
the poem, with which I am deUghted." At this con- 
versation I was present, and though I could not help 
smiling at Sir Henry's mode of reading poetry, was 
pleased to see the degree of interest which he took 
in the narrative.' 

Mr. Morritt informs me, that he well remembers 
the dinner where this conversation occurred, and 
thinks Mr. EUis has omitted in his report the best 
thing that Sir Harry Englefield said, in answer to 
one of the Dii Minorum Gentium, who made him- 
self conspicuous by the severity of his censure on the 
verbal inaccuracies and careless lines of The Lay. 
' My dear sir,' said the Baronet, ' you remind me 
of a lecture on sculpture, which M. Falconet de- 
livered at Rome, shortly after completing the model 
of his equestrian statue of Czar Peter, now at Peters- 
burg. He took for his subject the celebrated horse 
of Marcus Aurehus in the Capitol, and pointed out 
as many faults in it as ever a jockey did in an animal 
he was about to purchase. But something came 
over him, vain as he was, when he was about to 
conclude the harangue. He took a long pinch of 
snuif, and eyeing his own faultless model, exclaimed 
with a sigh — Cependant, Messieurs, il faut avouer 
que cette vilaine bite-la est vivante, et que la mientie 
est morte.' 

To retiu-n to Ellis's letter, I fancy most of my 
readers will agree with me in thinking that Sir 
Henry Englefield's method of reading and enjoying 
poetry was more to be envied than smiled at ; and 
in doubting whether posterity wiU ever dispute about 
192 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

the 'propriety' of the Canto which includes the 
Ballad of Rosabelle and the Requiem of Melrose. 
The friendly hypercritics seem, I confess, to have 
judged the poem on principles not less pedantic, 
though of another kind of pedantry, than those which 
induced the critic to pronounce that its great pre- 
vailing blot originated in ' those local partialities 
of the author,' which had induced him to expect 
general interest and sympathy for such personages 
as his * Johnstones, Elliots, and Armstrongs.' 'Mr. 
Scott,' said Jeffrey, ' must either sacrifice his Border 
prejudices, or offend his readers in the other parts of 
the empire.' It might have been answered by EUis 
or Frere, that these Border clans figured after aU on 
a scene at least as wide as the Troad ; and that their 
chiefs were not perhaps inferior, either in rank or 
power, to the majority of the Homeric kings ; but 
even the most zealous of its admirers among the 
professed literators of the day would hardly have 
ventured to suspect that the Lay of the Last Minstrel 
might have no prejudices to encounter but then- 
own. It was destined to charm not only the British 
empire, but the whole civilized world ; and had, in 
fact, exhibited a more Homeric genius than any 
regular epic since the days of Homer. 

' It would be great affectation,' says the Intro- 
duction of 1830, 'not to own that the author ex- 
pected some success from the Lay of the Last 
Minstrel. The attempt to return to a more simple 
and natural poetry was likely to be welcomed, at 
a time when the public had become tired of heroic 
hexameters, with all the buckram and binding that 
2— N 193 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

belong to them in modern days. But whatever 
might have been his expectations, whether moderate 
or unreasonable, the result left them far behind ; for 
among those who smiled on the adventurous minstrel 
were numbered the great names of William Pitt and 
Charles Fox. Neither was the extent of the sale 
inferior to the character of the judges who received 
the poem with approbation. Upwards of 30,000 
copies were disposed of by the trade ; and the author 
had to perform a task difficult to human vanity, 
when called upon to make the necessary deductions 
from his own merits, in a calm attempt to account 
for its popxilarity.' 

Through what channel or in what terms Fox 
made known his opinion of the Lay, I have failed 
to ascertain. Pitt's praise, as expressed to his niece. 
Lady Hester Stanhope, within a few weeks after the 
poem appeared, was repeated by her to Mr. William 
Stewart Rose, who, of course, communicated it 
forthwith to the author; and not long after, the 
Minister, in conversation with Scott's early friend 
the Right Hon. William Dundas, signified that it 
would give him pleasure to find some opportunity 
of advancing the fortunes of such a writer. ' I re- 
member,' writes this gentleman, ' at Mr. Pitt's table 
in 1805, the Chancellor asked me about you and 
your then situation, and after I had answered him, 
Mr. Pitt observed — " He can't remain as he is," and 
desired me to "look to it." He then repeated some 
lines from the Lay, describing the old harper's 
embarrassment when asked to play, and said — " This 
is a sort of thing which I might have expected in 
194 



LAY OF THE LAST MINSTREL 

painting, but could never have fancied capable of 
being given in poetry." ' * 

It is agreeable to know that this great statesman 
and accomplished scholar awoke at least once from 
his supposed apathy as to the elegant literature of 
his own time. 

The poet has under-estimated even the patent and 
tangible evidence of his success. The first edition 
of the Lay was a magnificent quarto, 750 copies ; 
but this was soon exhausted, and there followed an 
octavo impression of 1500 ; in 1806, two more, one 
of 2000 copies, another of 2250; in 1807, a fifth 
edition, of 2000, and a sixth, of 3000; in 1808, 
3550 ; in 1809, 3000 — a small edition in quarto (the 
ballads and Ijn-ical pieces being then annexed to it) — 
and another octavo edition of 3250 ; in 1811, 3000 ; 
in 1812, 3000; in 1816, 3000; in 1823, 1000. A 
fourteenth impression of 2000 foolscap appeared in 
1825 ; and besides all this, before the end of 1836, 
11,000 copies had gone forth in the collected edi- 
tions of his poetical works. Thus, nearly forty- 
four thousand copies had been disposed of in this 
country, and by the legitimate trade alone, before 
he superintended the edition of 1830, to which his 
biographical introductions were prefixed. In the 
history of British Poetry nothing had ever equalled 
the demand for the Lay of the Last Minstrel. 

The pubUshers of the first edition were Longman 
and Co. of London, and Archibald Constable and 



* Letter dated April 25th, 1818, and indorsed by Scott, ' William 
Dundas — a very kind letter.' 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Co. of Edinburgh ; which last house, however, had 
but a small share in the adventure. The profits 
were to be divided equally between the author and 
his pubhshers ; and Scott's moiety was £169, 6s. 
Messrs. Longman, when a second edition was called 
for, ojSered £500 for the copyright ; this was accepted, 
but they afterwards, as the Introduction says, ' added 
£100 in their own unsolicited kindness. It was 
handsomely given to supply the loss of a fine horse 
which broke down suddenly while the author was 
riding with one of the worthy pubhshers.' This 
worthy pubhsher was Mr. Owen Rees, and the 
gallant steed, to whom a desperate leap in the 
coursing-field proved fatal, was, I beUeve, Captain, 
the immediate successor of Lenore, as Scott's charger 
in the volunteer cavalry; Captain was replaced by 
Lieutenant. The author's whole share, then, in the 
profits of the Lay, came to £769, 6s. 

Mr. Rees' visit to Ashestiel occurred in the autumn. 
The success of the poem had already been decisive ; 
and fresh negotiations of more kinds than one were 
at this time in progress between Scott and various 
booksellers' houses, both of Edinburgh and London. 



196 



PARTNERSHIP WITH BALLANTYNE 



CHAPTER XIV 

Partnership with James Ballantyne: Literary Pro- 
jects : Edition of the British Poets : Edition of 
the Ancient English Chronicles, etc. etc. : Edition 
of Dryden undertaken : EarlMoira Commander 
of the Forces in Scotland: Sham Battles: 
Articles in the Edinburgh Review: Commence- 
ment of Waverley: Letter on Ossian: Mr. 
Skene^s Reminiscences of Ashestiel: Excursion 
to Cumberland: Alarm of Invasion: Visit of 
Mr. Southey: Correspondence on Dryden with 
Ellis and Wordsworth. 

1805 

Mb. Ballantyne, in his Memorandum, says, that 
very shortly after the pubUcation of the Lay, he 
found himself obhged to apply to Mr. Scott for an 
advance of money ; his own capital being inadequate 
for the business which had been accumulated on 
his press, in consequence of the reputation it had 
acquired for beauty and correctness of execution. 
Already, as we have seen, Ballantyne had received 
• a liberal loan ' ; * and now,' says he, ' being com- 
pelled, maugre all delicacy, to renew my apphcation, 
he candidly answered that he was not quite sure that 

197 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

it would be prudent for him to comply, but in order 
to evince his entire confidence in me, he was willing 
to make a suitable advance to be admitted as a 
third-sharer of my business.' In truth, Scott now 
embarked in Ballantyne's concern almost the whole 
of the capital which he had a few months before 
designed to invest in the purchase of Broadmeadows. 
Dis aliter visum. 

I have, many pages back, hinted my suspicion 
that he had formed some distant notion of such an 
alliance, as early as the date of Ballantyne's projected 
removal from Kelso to Edinburgh; and his Intro- 
duction to the Lay, in 1830, appears to leave Uttle 
doubt that the hope of ultimately succeeding at the 
Bar had waxed very faint, before the third volume 
of the Minstrelsy was brought out in 1803. When 
that hope ultimately vanished altogether, perhaps he 
himself would not have fouhd it easy to tell. The 
most important of men's opinions, views, and pro- 
jects, are sometimes taken up in so very gradual a 
manner, and after so many pauses of hesitation and 
of inward retractation, that they themselves are at 
a loss to trace in retrospect all the stages through 
which their minds have passed. We see plainly 
that Scott had never been fond of his profession, but 
that, conscious of his own persevering diligence, he 
ascribed his scanty success in it mainly to the pre- 
judices of the Scotch solicitors against employing, in 
weighty causes at least, any barrister supposed to be 
strongly imbued with the love of literature ; instancing 
the career of his friend Jeffrey as almost the solitary 
instance within his experience of such prejudices 
198 



PARTNERSHIP WITH BALLANTYNE 

being entirely overcome. Had Scott, to his strong 
sense and dexterous ingenuity, his well-grounded 
knowledge of the jurisprudence of his country, and 
his admirable industry, added a brisk and ready 
talent for debate and declamation, I can have no 
doubt that his triumph over the prejudices alluded 
to would have been as complete as Mr. Jeffrey's; 
nor in truth do I much question that, had one 
really great and interesting case been submitted 
to his sole care and management, the result would 
have been to place his professional character for 
skill and judgment, and variety of resource, on so 
firm a basis, that even his rising celebrity as a man 
of letters could not have seriously disturbed it. 
Nay, I think it quite possible, that had he been 
intrusted with one such case after his reputation 
was established, and he had been compelled to do 
his abilities some measure of justice in his own 
secret estimate, he might have displayed very con- 
siderable powers even as a forensic speaker. But 
no opportunities of this engaging kind having ever 
been presented to him — after he had persisted for 
more than ten years in sweeping the floor of the 
Parliament House, without meeting with any em- 
ployment but what would have suited the dullest 
drudge, and seen himself termly and yearly more 
and more distanced by contemporaries for whose 
general capacity he could have had little respect — 
while, at the same time, he already felt his own 
position in the eyes of society at large to have 
been signally elevated in consequence of his extra- 
professional exertions — it is not wonderful that 

199 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SfeCOTT 

disgust should have gradually gained uponV, him, and 
that the sudden blaze and tumult of renow^n which 
surrounded the author of the Lay should h^ave at 
last determined him to concentrate all his laambi- 
tion on the pursuits which had alone brought) him 
distinction. It ought to be mentioned, thatHhe 
business in George's Square, once extensive land 
lucrative, had dwindled away in the hands of \his 
brother Thomas, whose varied and powerful talenits 
were unfortunately combined with some tastes Iby 
no means favourable to the successful prosecutiion 
of his prudent father's vocation ; so that very 
possibly even the humble employmient of whil?h, 
during his first years at the Bar, Scott had at. 'least 
a sure and respectable allowance, was by this, time 
much reduced. I have not his fee-books of later 
date than 1803 : it is, however, my impressioi/i fi-om 
the whole tenour of his conversation and corri;espon- 
dence, that after that period he had not ouly not 
advanced as a professional man, but had be(m retro- 
grading in nearly the same proportion that his 
literary reputation advanced. ■, 

We have seen that, before he formed his contract 
with Ballantyne, he was in possession of such k fixed 
income as might have satisfied all his desires, had he 
not found his family increasing rapidly aboujc him. 
Even as that was, with nearly if not quite |£1000 
per annum, he might perhaps have retired npt only 
fi:om the Bar, but from Eduiburgh, and (settled 
entirely at Ashestiel or Broadmeadows, without 
encoxmtering what any man of his station and habits 
ought to have considered as an imprudent risk. He 
200 



PARTNRRSHIP WITH BALLANTYNE 

had, howefver, no wish to cut himself off from the 
busy and intelligent society to which he had been 
hitherto accustomed ; and resolved not to leave the 
Bar until he should have at least used his best efforts 
for obtaining, in addition to his Shrievalty, one of 
those clerkships of the supreme court at Edinburgh, 
which are usually considered as honourable retire- 
ments for advocates who, at a certain standing, 
finally give up all hopes of reaching the dignity of 
the. Bench. 'I determined,' he says, 'that litera- 
ture; should be my staflF but not my crutch, and that 
the profits of my literary labour, however convenient 
othejrwise, shoiild not, if I could help it, become 
necesssary to my ordinary expenses. Upon such a 
post ai^ author might hope to retreat, without any 
perceptible alteration of cucumstances, whenever the 
time should arrive that the public grew weary of his 
endeavours to please, or he himself should tire of the 
pen. I possessed so many friends capable of assisting 
me in ihis object of ambition, that I could hardly 
over-rate iny own prospects of obtaining the prefer- 
ment' to which I limited my wishes ; and, in fact, 
I obtained, in no long period, the reversion of a 
situation which completely met them.' * 

The first notice of this affair that occurs in his 
correspondence, is in a note of Lord Dalkeith's, 
February the 2d, 1805, in which his noble friend 
says — • My father desires me to tell you that he has 
had a communication with Lord Melville within 
these few days, and that he thinks your business is in 



* Introduction to the Lay of the Last Minstrel — 1830. 

20I 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER StTOTT 

a good train, though not certain.^ I conffuder it as 
clear, then, that he began his negotiations cokricerning 
a seat at the clerk's table immediately affeer the 
Lay was published ; and that their commenc<x;ment 
had been resolved upon in the strictest conn«?xion 
with his embarkation in the printing conceii-n of 
James BaUantyne and Company. Such matter*? are 
seldom speedily arranged; but we shall find I him 
in possession of his object before twelve mol^uths 
had elapsed. 

Meanwhile, his design of quitting the Bar -ivas 
divulged to none but those immediately necesf iary 
for the purposes of his negotiation with the Goyern- 
ment; and the nature of his connexion wirni the 
printiQg company remained, I believe, not oi/ily un- 
known, but for some years wholly unsuspeff 3ted, by 
any of his daily companions except Mr. Ersk^'ne. 

The forming of this commercial connexi^^n was 
one of the most important steps in Scott's liffc. He 
continued bound by it during twenty yearra, and its 
influence on his literary exertions and h^s worldly 
fortunes was productive of much good s^nd not a 
little evil. Its effects were in truth so m^xed and 
balanced during the vicissitudes of a long arid vigor- 
ous career, that I at this moment doubt wciether it 
ought, on the whole, to be considered with j' more of 
satisfaction or of regret. ( 

With what zeal he proceeded in advancing the 
views of the new copartnership, his correspondence 
bears ample evidence. The briUiant and captivating 
genius, now acknowledged universally, was soon dis- 
covered by the leading booksellers of the tipae to be 
202 



PARTNERSHIP WITH BALLANTYNE 

united with such abundance of matured information 
in many departments, and, above all, with such 
indefatigable habits, as to mark him out for the 
most valuable workman they could engage for the 
furtherance of their schemes. He had, long before 
this, cast a shrewd and penetrating eye over the field 
of literary enterprise, and developed in his own mind 
the outlines of many extensive plans, which wanted 
nothing but the command of a sufficient body of 
able subalterns to be carried into execution with 
splendid success. Such of these as he grappled with 
in his own person were, with rare exceptions, carried 
to a triumphant conclusion; but the aUiance with 
BaUantyne soon infected him with the proverbial 
rashness of mere mercantile adventure — while, at 
the same time, his generous feelings for other men 
of letters, and his characteristic propensity to over- 
rate their talents, combined to hurry him and his 
friends into a multitude of arrangements, the results 
of which were often extremely embarrassing, and 
ultimately, in the aggregate, all but disastrous. It 
is an old saying, that wherever there is a secret there 
must be something wrong ; and dearly did he pay 
the penalty for the mystery in which he had chosen 
to involve this transaction. It was his rule, from 
the beginning, that whatever he wrote or edited 
must be printed at that press; and had he catered 
for it only as author and sole editor, all had been 
well; but had the booksellers known his direct 
pecuniary interest in keeping up and extending the 
occupation of those types, they would have taken 
into account his lively imagination and sanguine 

203 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

temperament, as well as his taste and judgment, and 
considered, far more deliberately than they too often 
did, his multifarious recommendations of new literary 
schemes, coupled though these were with some dim 
understanding that, if the Ballantyne press were 
employed, his own hterary skill would be at his 
friend's disposal for the general superintendence of 
the undertaking. On the other hand, Scott's sugges- 
tions were, in many cases, perhaps in the majority of 
them, conveyed through Ballantjme, whose habitual 
deference to his opinion induced him to advocate 
them with enthusiastic zeal; and the printer, who 
had thus pledged his personal authority for the 
merits of the proposed scheme, must have felt him- 
self committed to the bookseller, and could hardly 
refuse with decency to take a certain share of the 
pecuniary risk, by allowing the time and method of 
his own payment to be regulated according to the 
employer's .convenience. Hence, by degrees, was 
woven a web of entanglement from which neither 
Ballantyne nor his adviser had any means of escape, 
except only in that indomitable spirit, the main- 
spring of personal industry altogether unparalleled, 
to which, thus set in motion, the world owes its 
most gigantic monument of literary genius. 

The following is the first letter I have found of 
Scott to his PARTNER. The Mr. Foster mentioned 
in the beginning of it was a literary gentleman who 
had proposed to take on himself a considerable share 
in the annotation of some of the new editions then 
on the carpet — among others, one of Dryden. 



204 



LITERARY PROJECTS 

' 7o Mr. James Ballantyne, Printer, Edinburgh. 

' Ashestiel, April 12th, 1805. 

' Dear Ballantyne, 

'I have duly received your two favours — ^also 
Foster's. He still howls about the expense of 
printing, but I think we shall finally settle. His 
argument is that you print too fine, alias too dear. 
I intend to stick to my answer, that I know nothing 
of the matter; but that settle it how you and he 
will, it must be printed by you, or can be no concern 
of mine. This gives you an advantage in driving 
the bargain. As to everything else, I think we 
shall do, and I will endeavour to set a few volumes 
agoing on the plan you propose. 

'I have imagined a very superb work. What 
think you of a complete edition of British Poets, 
ancient and modern? Johnson's is imperfect and 
out of print; so is Bell's, which is a LiUiputian 
thing ; and Anderson's, the most complete in point 
of number, is most contemptible in execution both 
of the editor and printer. There is a scheme for 
you ! At least a himdred volumes, to be published 
at the rate of ten a-year. I cannot, however, be 
ready till midsummer. If the booksellers will give 
me a decent allowance per volume, say thirty guineas, 
I shall hold myself well paid on the writing hand. 
This is a dead secret. 

« I think it quite right to let Doig * have a share 
of Thomson ; f but he is hard and slippery, so settle 



* A bookseller in Edinburgh. 

+ A projected edition of the Works of the author of the Seasons. 

20S 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

your bargain fast and firm — no loop-holes 1 I am 
glad you have got some elbow-room at last. Cowan 
win come to, or we wiU find some fit place in time. 
If not, we must build — ^necessity has no law. I see 
nothing to hinder you from doing Tacitus with your 
correctness of eye, and I congratulate you on the 
fair prospect before us. When you have time, you 
will make out a list of the debts to be discharged at 
Whitsunday, that we may see what cash we shall 
have in bank. Our book-keeping may be very 
simple — an accurate cash-book and ledger is all that 
is necessary; and I think I know enough of the 
matter to assist at making the balance-sheet. 

'In short, with the assistance of a Uttle cash I 
have no doubt things will go on a mervdlle. If 
you could take a little pleasuring, I wish you could 
come here and see us in aU the glories of a Scottish 
spring. Yours truly, W. Scott.' 

Scott opened forthwith his gigantic scheme of the 
British Poets to Constable, who entered into it 
with eagerness. They found presently that Messrs. 
Cadell and Davies, and some of the other London 
publishers, had a similar plan on foot, and after an 
unsuccessful negociation with Mackintosh, were now 
actually treating with Campbell for the Biographical 
prefaces. Scott proposed that the Edinburgh and 
London houses should joia in the adventure, and 
that the editorial task should be shared between 
himself and his brother poet. To this both Messrs. 
Cadell and Mr. Campbell warmly assented ; but the 
design ultimately fell to the ground, in consequence 
206 



VOLUNTEERS— 1805 

of the booksellers refusing to admit certain works 
which both Scott and Campbell insisted upon. Such, 
and from analogous causes, has been the fate of 
various similar schemes both before and since. But 
the public had no trivial compensation upon the 
present occasion, since the failure of the original 
project led Mr. Campbell to prepare for the press 
those 'Specimens of EngHsh Poetry' which he 
illustrated with sketches of biography and critical 
' essays, aUke honourable to his learning and taste ; 
while Scott, Mr. Foster ultimately standing off, took 
on himself the whole bm-den of a new edition, as 
well as biography, of Dryden. The body of book- 
sellers meanwhile combined in what they still called 
a general edition of the EngUsh Poets, under the 
superintendence of one of their own Grub Street 
vassals, Mr. Alexander Chalmers. 

Precisely at the time when Scott's poetical ambi- 
tion had been stimulated by the first outburst of 
universal applause, and when he was forming those 
engagements with Ballantyne which involved so large 
an accession of Uterary labours, as well as of pecuniary 
cares and responsibilities, a fresh impetus was given 
to the volunteer mania in Scotland, by the appoint- 
ment of the late Earl of Moira (afterwards Marquis 
of Hastings) to the chief mUitary command in that 
part of the empire. The Earl had married, the year 
before, a Scottish Peeress, the Countess of Loudon, 
and entered with great zeal into her sympathy with 
the patriotic enthusiasm of her countrymen. Edin- 
burgh was converted into a camp : independently 
of a large garrison of regular troops, nearly 10,000 

207 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

fencibles and volunteers were almost constantly under 
arms. The lawyer wore his uniform under his gown; 
the shopkeeper measured out his wares in scarlet ; in 
short, the citizens of aU classes made more use for 
several months of the mihtary than of any other 
dress ; and the new commander-in-chief consulted 
equally his own gratification and theirs, by devising 
a succession of manoeuvres which presented a vivid 
image of the art of war conducted on a large and 
scientific scale. In the sham battles and sham sieges 
of 1805, Craigmillar, Gilmerton, BraidhiUs, and other 
formidable positions in the neighbourhood qf Edin- 
burgh, were the scenes of many a dashing assault and 
resolute defence ; and occasionally the spirits of the 
mock combatants — English and Scotch, or Lowland 
and Highland — became so much excited that there 
was some difficulty in preventing the rough mockery 
of warfare from passing into its realities. The High- 
landers, in particular, were very hard to be dealt 
with ; and once, at least. Lord Moira was forced to 
alter at the eleventh hour his programme of battle, 
because a battalion of kilted fencibles could not or 
would not understand that it was their duty to be 
beat. Such days as these must have been more nobly 
spirit-stirring than even the best specimens of the 
fox-chase. To the end of his hfe, Scott delighted 
to recall the details of their countermarches, am- 
buscades, charges, and pursuits, and in all of these 
his associates of the Light-Horse agree that none 
figured more advantageously than himself. Yet 
these military interludes seem only to have whetted 
his appetite for closet work. Indeed, nothing but 
208 




HE\/. .JijHi.; 



i-L 1 ; . 

T RAEEUP 



LETTER TO ELLIS— 1805 

a complete publication of his letters could give an 
adequate notion of the facility with which he already 
combined the conscientious magistrate, the martinet 
quartermaster, the speculative printer, and the ardent 
lover of literature for its own sake. A few specimens 
must suffice. 

' To George Ellis, Esq. 

'Edinburgh, May 26, 1805. 

' My Dear Ellis, 

'Your silence has been so long and opinion- 
ative, that I am quite authorized, as a Border ballad- 
monger, to address you with a — " Sleep you, or 
wake you ? " What has become of the " Romances," 
which I have expected as anxiously as my neighbours 
around me have watched for the rain, which was to 
bring the grass, which was to feed the new-calved 
cows, and to as little purpose, for both Heaven and 
you have obstinately delayed your favours. After 
idling away the spring months at Ashestiel, I am 
just returned to idle away the summer here, and I 
have lately lighted upon rather an interesting article 
in your way. If you will turn to Barbour's Bruce 
(Pinkerton's edition, p. 66), you wiU find that the 
Lord of Lorn, seeing Bruce covering the retreat 
of his followers, compares him to Gow MacMorn 
(Macpherson's Gaul the son of Morni). This simili- 
tude appears to Barbour a disparagement, and he 
says, the Lord of Lorn might more mannerly have 
compared the king to Gadefeir de Lawryss, who was 
with the mighty Duke Betys when he assailed the 
forayers in Gadderis, and who in the retreat did 

2 — o 209 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

much execution among the pursuers, overthrowing 
Alexander and Thelomier and Danklin, although he 
was at length slain ; and here, says Barbour, the 
resemblance fails. Now, by one of those chances 
which favour the antiquary once in an age, a single 
copy of the romance alluded to has been discovered, 
containing the whole history of this Gadefeir, who 
had hitherto been a stumbling-block to the critics. 
The book was printed by Arbuthnot, who flourished 
at Edinburgh in the seventeenth century. It is 
a metrical romance, called " the Bulk of the Most 
Noble and Vauliant Conquerour, Alexander the 
Grit." The first part is called the Foray of Gad- 
deris, an incident supposed to have taken place while 
Alexander was besieging Tyre; Gadefeir is one of 
the principal champions, and after exerting himself 
in the manner mentioned by Barbour, unhorsing the 
persons whom he named, he is at length slain by 
Emynedus, the Earl-Marshal of the Macedonian 
conqueror. The second part is called the Avowis 
of Alexander, because it introduces the oaths which 
he and others made to the peacock in the " chalmer 
of Venus," and gives an account of the mode in 
which they accomplished them. The third is the 
Great Battell of Effesoun, in which Porus makes a 
distinguished figure. This you are to understand 
is not the Porus of India, but one of his sons. The 
work is in decided Scotch, and adds something to 
our ancient poetry, being by no means despicable in 
point of composition. The author says he translated 
it from the Franch, or Romance, and that he accom- 
plished his work in 1438-9. Barbour must therefore 

2IO 



LETTER TO ELLIS— 1805 

have quoted from the French Alexander, and 
perhaps his praises of the work excited the Scottish 
translator. Will you tell me what you think of aU 
this, and whether any transcripts will be of use to 
you ? I am pleased with the accident of its casting 
up, and hope it may prove the forerunner of more 
discoveries in the dusty and iU-arranged hbraries of 
our country gentlemen. 

' I hope you continue to like the Lay. I have 
had a flattering assurance of Mr. Fox's approbation, 
mixed with a censure of my eulogy on the Viscount 
of Dundee. Although my Tory principles prevent 
my coinciding with his pohtical opinions, I am very 
proud of his approbation in a hterary sense. 

' Charlotte joins me, etc. etc., W. S.' 

In his answer, Ellis says — 'Longman lately in- 
formed me that you have projected a General Edition 
of our Poets. I expressed to him my anxiety that 
the booksellers, who certainly can ultimately sell 
what they please, should for once undertake some- 
thing calculated to please intelligent readers, and 
that they shoidd confine themselves to the selection 
of paper, types, etc. (which they possibly may under- 
stand), and by no means interfere with the literary 
part of the business, which, if popularity be the 
object, they must leave exclusively to you. I am 
talking, as you perceive, about your plan, without 
knowing its extent, or any of its details ; for these, 
therefore, I will wait — after confessing that, much 
as I wish for a corpus poetarum, edited as you would 
edit it, I should Uke still better another Minstrel 

211 



LIFE OF Sm WALTER. SCOTT 

Lay by the last and best Minstrel ; and the general 
demand for the poem seems to prove that the pubUc 
are of my opinion. If, however, you don't feel 
disposed to take a second ride on Pegasus, why not 
undertake something far less infra dig. than a mere 
edition of our poets? Why not undertake what 
Gibbon once undertook — an edition of our historians ? 
I have never been able to look at a volume of the 
Benedictine edition of the early French historians 
without envy.' 

Mr. EUis appears to have communicated all his 
notions on this subject to Messrs. Longman, for 
Scott writes to BaUantyne (Ashestiel, September 5), 
'I have had a visit from Rees yesterday. He is 
anxious about a corpus historiarum, or fiiU edition 
of the Chronicles of England, an immense work. 
I proposed to him beginning with Hohnshed, and I 
think the work wUl be secured for your press. I con- 
gratulate you on Clarendon, which, under Thomson's 
direction, will be a glorious publication.' * 

The printing office in the Canongate was by this 
time in very great request; and the letter I have 
been quoting contains evidence that the partners had 
already found it necessary to borrow fresh capital — 
on the personal security, it need not be added, of 
Scott himself. He says, ' As I have fuU confidence 
in your applying the accommodation received from 
Sir WiUiam Forbes in the most convenient and 
prudent manner, I have no hesitation to return the 



* An edition of Clarendon had been, it seems, contemplated by Scott's 
friend, Mr. Thomas Thomson. 

212 



LETTER TO ELLIS— 1805 

tonds subscribed as you desire. This will put you 
in cash for great matters.' 

But to return. To Ellis himself he says — ' I have 
had booksellers here in the plural number. You 
have set httle Rees's head agog about the Chronicles, 
which would be an admirable work, but should, I 
think, be edited by an EngUshman who can have 
access to the MSS. of Oxford and Cambridge, as 
one cannot trust much to the correctness of printed 
copies. I will, however, consider the matter, so fat- 
as a decent edition of Holinshed is concerned, in case 
my time is not otherwise taken up. As for the British 
Poets, my plan was greatly too Uberal to stand the 
least chance of being adopted by the trade at large, 
as I wished them to begin with Chaucer. The fact 
is, I never expected they would agree to it. The 
Benedictines had an infinite advantage over us in 
that esprit de corps which led them to set labour 
and expense at defiance, when the honour of the 
order was at stake. Would to God your English 
Universities, with their huge endowments and the 
number of learned men to whom they give com- 
petence and leisure, would but imitate the monks in 
their hterary plans. My present employment is an 
edition of John Dryden's Works, which is already 
gone to press. As for riding on Pegasus, depend 
upon it, I will never again cross him in a serious way, 
unless I should by some strange accident reside so 
long in the Highlands, and make myself master of 
their ancient manners, so as to paint them with some 
degree of accuracy in a kind of companion to the 
Minstrel Lay. ... I am interrupted by the arrival 

213 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of two gentil bachelors, whom, like the Count of 
Artois, I must despatch upon some adventure till 
dinner time. Thank Heaven, that will not be diffi- 
cult, for although there are neither dragons nor 
boars in the vicinity, and men above six feet are not 
only scarce, but pacific in their habits, yet we have 
a curious breed of wild-cats who have eaten aU 
Charlotte's chickens, and against whom I have 
declared a war at outrance, in which the assistance 
of these geiites damoiseaux will be fully as valuable 
as that of Don Quixote to Pentalopin with the naked 
arm. So, if Mrs. EUis takes a fancy for cat-skin 
fur, now is the time.' 

Already, then, he was seriously at work on Dryden. 
During the same summer, he drew up for the Edin- 
burgh Review an admirable article on Todd's edition 
of Spenser ; another on Godwin's Fleetwood ; a third, 
on the Highland Society's Report concerning the 
Poems of Ossian ; a fourth, on Johnes's Translation 
of Froissart ; a fifth, on Colonel Thornton's Sporting 
Tour ; and a sixth, on some cookery books — the 
two last being excellent specimens of his humour. 
He had, besides, a constant succession of minor 
cares in the superintendence of multifarious works 
passing through the Ballantyne press. But there is 
yet another important item to be included in the 
list of his literary labours of this period. The General 
Preface to his Novels informs us, that ' about 1805 ' 
he wrote the opening chapters of Waverley; and 
the second title, 'Tis Sixty Years Since, selected, 
as he says, ' that the actual date of publication might 
correspond with the period in which the scene was 
214 



WAVERLEY BEGUN— 1805 

laid,' leaves no doubt that he had begun the work 
so early in 1805 as to contemplate publishing it 
before Christmas.* He adds, in the same page, that 
he was induced, by the favourable reception of the 
Lady of the Lake, to think of giving some of his 
recollections of Highland scenery and customs in 
prose ; but this is only one instance of the inaccuracy 
as to matters of date which pervades all those de- 
lightful Prefaces. The Lady of the Lake was not 
published until five years after the first chapters of 
Waverley were written ; its success, therefore, could 
have had no share in suggesting the original design 
of a Highland novel, though no doubt it principally 
influenced him to take up that design after it had 
been long suspended, and almost forgotten. Thus 
early, then, had Scott meditated deeply such a 
portraiture of Highland manners as might ' make a 
sort of companion' to that of the old Border life 
in the ' Minstrel Lay ' ; and he had probably begun 
and suspended his Waverley, before he expressed 
to Ellis his feeling that he ought to reside for some 
considerable time in the country to be delineated, 
before seriously committing himself in the execution 
of such a task. 

' Having proceeded,' he says, ' as far as I think 
the seventh chapter, I showed my work to a critical 
friend, whose opinion was unfavourable ; and having 
then some poetical reputation, I was unwilling to 
risk the loss of it by attempting a new style of com- 

* I have ascertained, since this page was written, that a small part 
of the MS. of Waverley is on paper hearing the watermark of 1806 — the 
rest on paper of 181S. 

215 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

position. I, therefore, then threw aside the work I 
had commenced, without either reluctance or remon- 
strance. I ought to add, that though my ingenuous 
friend's sentence was afterwards reversed, on an 
appeal to the public, it cannot be considered as any 
imputation on his good taste ; for the specimen sub- 
jected to his criticism did not extend beyond the 
departure of the hero for Scotland, and consequently 
had not entered upon the part of the story which 
was finally found most interesting.' A letter to be 
quoted under the year 1810 wiU, I believe, satisfy 
the reader that the first critic of the opening chapters 
of Waverley was WUliam Erskine. 

The following letter must have been written in 
the course of this autumn. It is in every respect a 
very interesting one; but I introduce it here as 
illustrating the course of his reflections on Highland 
subjects in general, at the time when the first out- 
lines both of the Lady of the Lake and Waverley 
must have been floating about in his mind : — 

' To Miss Seward, Lichfield. 

'Ashestiel [1805]. 

' My Dear Miss Seward, 

' You recall to me some very pleasant feelings 
of my boyhood, when you ask my opinion of Ossian. 
His works were first put into my hands by old Dr. 
Blacklock, a blind poet, of whom you may have 
heard ; he was the worthiest and kindest of human 
beings, and particularly delighted in encouraging the 
pursuits, and opening the minds, of the young people 
by whom he was surrounded. I, though at the 

216 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

period of our intimacy a very young boy, was fortu- 
nate enough to attract his notice and kindness ; and 
if I have been at all successful in the paths of literary 
pursuit, I am sure I owe much of that success to 
the books with which he suppUed me, and his own 
instructions. Ossian and Spencer were two books 
which the good old bard put mto my hands, and 
which I devoured rather than perused. Their tales 
were for a long time so much my dehght, that I 
could repeat without remorse whole Cantos of the 
one and Duans of the other ; and wo to the unlucky 
wight who undertook to be my auditor, for in the 
height of my enthusiasm I was apt to disregard all 
hints that my recitations became tedious. It was a 
natural consequence of progress in taste, that my 
fondness for these authors should experience some 
abatement. Ossian's poems, in particular, have 
more charms for youth than for a more advanced 
stage. The eternal repetition of the same ideas and 
imagery, however beautiful in themselves, is apt to 
pall upon a reader whose taste has become some- 
what fastidious ; and, although I agree entirely with 
you that the question of their authenticity ought 
not to be confounded with that of their literary merit, 
yet scepticism on that head takes away their claim 
for indulgence as the productions of a barbarous 
and remote age ; and, what is perhaps more natural, 
it destroys that feeling of reahty which we should 
otherwise combine with our sentiments of admira- 
tion. As for the great dispute, I should be no Scot- 
tishman if I had not very attentively considered 
it at some period of my studies ; and, indeed, I 

217 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

have gone some lengths in my researches, for I have 
beside me translations of some twenty or thirty of 
the unquestioned originals of Ossian's poems. After 
making every allowance for the disadvantages of a 
literal translation, and the possible debasement which 
those now collected may have suffered in the great 
and violent change which the Highlands have under- 
gone since the researches of Macpherson, I am com- 
pelled to admit that incalculably the greater part of 
the English Ossian must be ascribed to Macpherson 
himself, and that his whole introductions, notes, 
etc. etc. are an absolute tissue of forgeries. 

' In all the ballads I ever saw or could hear of. 
Fin and Ossin are described as natives of Ireland, 
although it is not unusual for the reciters sturdUy 
to maintain that this is a corruption of the text. 
In point of merit, I do not think these Gaelic poems 
much better than those of the Scandinavian Scalds ; 
they are very unequal, often very vigorous and 
pointed, often drivelling and crawling in the very 
extremity of tenuity. , The manners of the heroes 
are those of Celtic savages ; and I could point out 
twenty instances in which Macpherson has very 
cunningly adopted the beginning, the names, and 
the leading incidents, etc. of an old tale, and dressed 
it up with all those ornaments of sentiment and 
sentimental manners, which first excite our surprise 
and afterwards our doubt of its authenticity. The 
Highlanders themselves, recognising the leading 
features of tales they had heard in infancy, with here 
and there a tirade really taken from an old poem, 
were readily seduced into becoming champions for 
218 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

the authenticity of the poems. How many people, 
not particularly addicted to poetry, who may have 
heard Chevy-Chase in the nursery or at school, and 
never since met with the ballad, might be imposed 
upon by a new Chevy-Chase, bearing no resemblance 
to the old one, save in here and there a stanza or an 
incident ? Besides, there is something in the severe 
judgment passed on my countrymen — " that if they 
do not prefer Scotland to truth, they will always 
prefer it to enquiry." When once the Highlanders 
had adopted the poems of Ossian as an article of 
national faith, you would far sooner have got them 
to disavow the Scripture than to abandon a line of 
the contested tales. Only they all allow that Mac- 
pherson's translation is very unfaithful, and some 
pretend to say inferior to the original ; by which 
they can only mean, if they mean any thing, that 
they miss the charms of the rhythm and vernacular 
idiom, which pleases the Gaelic natives ; for in the 
real attributes of poetry, Macpherson's version is far 
superior to any I ever saw of the fragments which 
he seems to have used. 

' The Highland Society have lately set about 
investigating, or rather, I should say, collecting 
materials to defend, the authenticity of Ossian. 
Those researches have only proved that there were 
no real originals — using that word as is commonly 
understood — to be found for them. The oldest tale 
they have found seems to be that of Darthula ; but 
it is perfectly different, both in diction and story, 
from that of Macpherson. It is, however, a beautiful 
specimen of Celtic poetry, and shows that it contains 

219 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

much which is worthy of preservation. Indeed 
how should it be otherwise, when we know that, 
till about fifty years ago, the Highlands contained 
a race of hereditary poets ? Is it possible to think, 
that, among perhaps many hundreds, who for such 
a course of centuries have founded their reputation 
and rank on practising the art of poetry, in a country 
where the scenery and manners gave such effect 
and interest and imagery to their productions, there 
should not have been some who attained excellence? 
In searching out those genuine records of the Celtic 
Muse, and preserving them from oblivion, with all 
the curious information which they must doubtless 
contain, I humbly think our Highland antiquaries 
would merit better of their country, than by con- 
fining their researches to the fantastic pursuit of 
a chimera. 

' I am not to deny that Macpherson's inferiority 
in other compositions is a presumption that he did 
not actually compose these poems. But we are to 
consider his advantage when on his own ground. 
Macpherson was a Highlander, and had his imagina- 
tion fired with the charms of Celtic poetry from his 
very infancy. We know, from constant experience, 
that most Highlanders, after they have become com- 
plete masters of English, continue to think in their 
own language ; and it is to me demonstrable that 
Macpherson thought almost every word of Ossian 
in Gaelic, although he wrote it down in English. 
The specimens of his early poetry which remain are 
also deeply tinged with the peculiarities of the Celtic 
diction and character ; so that, in fact, he might be 
220 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

considered as a Highland poet, even if he had not left 
us some Earse translations (or originals of Ossian) 
unquestionably written by himself. These circum- 
stances gave a great advantage to him in forming 
the style of Ossian, which, though exalted and modi- 
fied according to Macpherson's own ideas of modern 
taste, is in great part cut upon the model of the 
tales of the Sennachies and Bards. In the trans- 
lation of Homer, he not only lost these advantages, 
but the circumstances on which they were founded 
were a great detriment to his undertaking ; for 
although such a dress was appropriate and becoming 
for Ossian, few people cared to see their old Grecian 
fi:iend disguised in a tartan plaid and phUabeg. In 
a word, the style which Macpherson had formed, 
however admirable in a Highland tale, was not cal- 
culated for translating Homer; and it was a great 
mistake in him, excited, however, by the general 
applause his first work received, to suppose that 
there was any thing homogeneous betwixt his own 
ideas and those of Homer. Macpherson, in his way, 
was certainly a man of high talents, and his poetic 
powers as honourable to his country, as the use 
which he made of them, and I fear his personal 
character in other respects, was a discredit to it. 

' Thus I have given you with the utmost sincerity 
my creed on the great national question of Ossian ; it 
has been formed after much dehberation and enquiry. 
I have had for some time thoughts of writing a 
Highland poem, somewhat in the style of the Lay, 
giving as far as I can a real picture of what that 
enthusiastic race actually were before the destruction 

221 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

of their patriarchal government. It is true, I have 
not quite the same facilities as in describing Border 
manners, where I am, as they say, more at home. 
But to balance my comparative deficiency in know- 
ledge of Celtic manners, you are to consider that I 
have from my youth delighted in aU the Highland 
traditions which I could pick up from the old 
Jacobites who used to frequent my father's house ; 
and this wiU, I hope, make some amends for my 
having less immediate opportunities of research than 
in the Border tales. 

'Agreeably to your advice, I have actually read 
over Madoc a second time, and I confess have seen 
much beauty which escaped me in the first perusal. 
Yet (which yet, by the way, is almost as vile A 
monosyllable as but) I cannot feel quite the interest 
I would vdsh to do. The difference of character 
which you notice, reminds me of what by Ben 
Jonson and other old comedians were called humours, 
which consisted rather in the personification of some 
individual passion or propensity, than of an actual 
individual man. Also, I cannot give up my objection, 
that what was strictly true of Columbus becomes 
an unpleasant falsehood when told of some one else. 
Suppose I was to write a fictitious book of travels, 
I should certainly do ill to copy exactly the incidents 
which befell Mungo Park or Bruce of Kinnaird. 
What was true of them would incontestably prove 
at once the falsehood and plagiarism of my supposed 
journal. It is not but what the incidents are natural 
— ^but it is their having already happened, which 
strikes us when they are transferred to imaginary 

222 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

persons. Could any one bear the story of a second 
city being taken by a wooden horse ? 

' Believe me, I shall not be within many miles of 
Lichfield without paying my personal respects to 
you ; and yet I should not do it in prudence, because 
I am afraid you have formed a higher opinion of me 
than I deserve : you would expect to see a person 
who had dedicated himself much to literary pursuits, 
and you would find me a rattle-sculled half-lawyer, 
half-sportsman, through whose head a regiment of 
horse has been exercising since he was five years 
old; half-educated — half-crazy, as his friends some- 
times tell him ; haK every thing, but entirely Miss 
Seward's much obliged, affectionate, and faithful 
servant, Walter Scott.' 

His correspondence shows how largely he was 
exerting himself all this while in the service of 
authors less fortunate than himself. James Hogg, 
among others, continued to occupy from time to 
time his attention ; and he assisted regularly and 
assiduously throughout this and the succeeding year 
Mr. Robert Jameson, an industrious and inteUigent 
antiquary, who had engaged in editing a collection 
of ancient popular ballads before the third volume of 
the Minstrelsy appeared, and who at length published 
his very curious work in 1807. Meantime, Ashestiel, 
in place of being less resorted to by literary strangers 
than Lasswade cottage had been, shared abundantly 
in the fresh attractions of the Lay, and ' booksellers 
in the plural number ' were preceded and followed by 
an endless variety of enthusiastic ' gentil bachelors,' 

223 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

whose main temptation from the south had been 
the hope of seeing the Borders in company with 
their Minstrel. He still writes of himself as ' idling 
away his hours ' ; he had already learned to appear 
as if he were doing so to all who had no particular 
right to confidence respecting the details of his 
privacy. 

But the most agreeable of all his visitants were 
his own old familiar friends, and one of these has 
furnished me with a sketch of the autumn life of 
Ashestiel, of which I shall now avail myself. Scott's 
invitation was in these terms : — 

' To James Skene, Esq. of Rubislaw. 

'Ashestielj 18th August 1805. 

' Dear Skene, 

' I have prepared another edition of the Lay, 
1500 strong, moved thereunto by the faith, hope, 
and charity of the London booksellers. ... If you 
could, in the interim, find a moment to spend here, 
you know the way, and the ford is where it was; 
which, by the way, is more than I expected after 
Saturday last, the most dreadful storm of thunder 
and hghtning I ever witnessed. The hghtning broke 
repeatedly in our immediate vicinity, i.e. betwixt us 
and the Peel wood. Charlotte resolved to die in bed 
like a good Christian. The servants said it was the 
preface to the end of the world, and I was the only 
person that maintained my character for stoicism, 
which I assure you had some merit, as I had no 
doubt that we were in real danger. It was accom- 
panied with a flood so tremendous, that I would 

224 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

have given five pounds you had been here to make 
a sketch of it. The little Glenkiimon brook was 
impassable for all the next day, and indeed I have 
been obliged to send all hands to repair the ford, 
which was converted into a deep pool. BeMeve me 
ever yours affectionately, W. S.' 

Mr, Skene says — ' I weU remember the ravages of 
the storm and flood described in this letter. The 
ford of Ashestiel was never a good one, and for some 
time after this it remained not a httle perilous. He 
was himself the first to attempt the passage on 
his favourite black horse Captain, who had scarcely 
entered the river when he plunged beyond his depth, 
and had to swim to the other side with his burden. 
It requires a good horseman to swim a deep and rapid 
stream, but he trusted to the vigour of his steady 
trooper, and in spite of his lameness kept his seat 
manfully. A cart bringing a new kitchen range (as 
I believe the grate for that service is technically 
called) was shortly after upset in this ugly ford. 
The horse and cart were with difficulty got out, but 
the grate remained for some time in the middle of 
the stream to do duty as a horse-trap, and furnish 
subject for many a good joke when Mrs. Scott 
happened to complain of the imperfection of her 
kitchen appointments.' 

Mr. Skene soon discovered an important change 
which had recently been made in his friend's dis- 
tribution of his time. Previously it had been his 
custom, whenever professional business or social 
engagements occupied the middle part of his day, 
2— p 225 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

to seize some hours for study after he was supposed 
to have retired to bed. His physician suggested 
that this was very likely to aggravate his nervous 
headaches, the only malady he was subject to in 
the prime of his manhood ; and, contemplating with 
steady eye a course not only of unremitting but of 
increasing industry, he resolved to reverse his plan, 
and carried his purpose into execution with unflinch- 
ing energy. In short, he had now adopted the 
habits in which, with very slender variation, he ever 
after persevered when in the coimtry. He rose by 
five o'clock, lit his own fire when the season required 
one, and shaved and dressed with great deliberation 
— for he was a very martinet as to all but the mere 
coxcombries of the toilet, not abhorring effeminate 
dandyism itself so cordially as the slightest approach 
to personal slovenliness, or even those 'bed-gown 
and slipper tricks,' as he called them, in which 
literary men are so apt to indulge. Arrayed in 
his shooting-jacket, or whatever dress he meant to 
use till dinner time, he was seated at his desk by 
six o'clock, all his papers arranged before him in the 
most accurate order, and his books of reference 
marshalled around him on the floor, while at least 
one favourite dog lay watching his eye, just beyond 
the hne of circumvaUation. Thus, by the time the 
family assembled for breakfast between nine and ten, 
he had done enough (in his own language) ' to break 
the neck of the day's work' After breakfast, a couple 
of hours more were given to his solitary tasks, and 
by noon he was, as he used to say, 'his own man.' 
When the weather was bad, he would labour incess- 
226 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

antly all the morning; but the general rule was to 
be out and on horseback by one o'clock at the latest ; 
while, if any more distant excursion had been pro- 
posed over night, he was ready to start on it by ten ; 
his occasional rainy days of unintermitted study 
forming, as he said, a fund in his favoiu*, out of 
which he was entitled to draw for accommodation 
whenever the sun shone with special brightness. 

It was another rule, that every letter he received 
should be answered that same day. Nothing else 
could have enabled him to keep abreast with the 
flood of communications that in the sequel put his 
good nature to the severest test — but already the 
demands on him in this way also were numerous; 
and he included attention to them among the neces- 
sary business which must be despatched before he 
had a right to close his writing-box, or as he phrased 
it, 'to say, out damned spot, and be a gentleman.' 
In turning over his enormous mass of correspondence, 
I have almost invariably found some indication that, 
when a letter had remained more than a day or two 
unanswered, it had been so because he found occasion 
for enquiry or deliberate consideration. 

I ought not to omit, that in those days Scott was 
far too zealous a dragoon not to take a principal share 
in the stable duty. Before beginning his desk-work 
in the morning, he uniformly visited his favourite 
steed, and neither Captain nor Lieutenant, nor the 
Lieutenant's successor. Brown Adam (so called after 
one of the heroes of the Minstrelsy), liked to be 
fed except by him. The latter charger was indeed 
altogether intractable in other hands, though in his 

227 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the most submissive of faithful allies. The moment 
he was bridled and saddled, it was the custom to open 
the stable door as a signal that his master expected 
him, when he immediately trotted to the side of the 
leaping-on-stone, of which Scott from his lameness 
found it convenient to make use, and stood there, 
silent and motionless as a rock, until he was fairly in 
his seat, after which he displayed his joy by neighing 
triumphantly through a brUhant succession of cur- 
vettings. Brown Adam never suffered himself to be 
backed but by his master. He broke, I beUeve, one 
groom's arm and another's leg in the rash attempt 
to tamper with his dignity. 

Camp was at this time the constant parlour dog. 
He was very handsome, very intelligent, and naturally 
very fierce, but gentle as a lamb among the children. 
As for the more locomotive Douglas and Percy, he 
kept one window of his study open, whatever might 
be the state of the weather, that they might leap out 
and in as the fancy moved them. He always talked 
to Camp as if he understood what was said — and 
the animal certainly did understand not a little of 
it ; in particular, it seemed as if he perfectly com- 
prehended on aU occasions that his master considered 
him as a sensible and steady friend, the greyhounds 
as volatile young creatures whose freaks must be 
borne with. 

' Every day,' says Mr. Skene, ' we had some hours 
of coursing with the greyhounds, or riding at random 
over the hills, or of spearing salmon in the Tweed 
by sunlight: which last sport, moreover, we often 
renewed at night by the help of torches. This 
228 



ASHESTIEL— MR. SKENE 

amusement of burning the water, as it is called, 
was not without some hazard, for the large salmon 
generally lie in the pools, the depths of which it is 
not easy to estimate with precision by torchhght, — 
so that not unfrequently, when the sportsman makes 
a determined thrust at a fish apparently within reach, 
his eye has grossly deceived him, and instead of the 
point of the weapon encountering the prey, he finds 
himself launched with corresponding vehemence heels 
over head into the pool, both spear and salmon gone, 
the torch thrown out by the concussion of the boat, 
and quenched in the stream, while the boat itself 
has of course receded to some distance. I remember 
the first time I accompanied our friend, he went 
right over the gunwale in this maimer, and had I 
not accidentally been close at his side, and made 
a successful grasp at the skirt of his jacket as he 
plunged overboard, he must at least have had an 
awkward dive for it. Such are the contingencies 
of burning the water. The pleasures consist in being 
penetrated with cold and wet, having your shins 
broken against the stones in the dark, and perhaps 
mastering one fish out of every twenty you take 
aim at' 

In all these amusements, but particularly in the 
burning of the water, Scott's most regular companion 
at this time was John Lord Somerville, who united 
with many higher qualities a most enthusiastic love 
for such sports, and consummate address in the 
prosecution of them. This amiable nobleman then 
passed his autumns at his pretty seat of Alwyn, 
or the Pavilion, situated on the Tweed, some eight 

229 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

or nine miles below Ashestiel. They interchanged 
visits almost every week ; and Scott did not fail to 
profit largely by his friend's matured and well-known 
skill in every department of the science of rural 
economy. He always talked of him, in particular, 
as his master in the art of planting. 

The laird of Rubislaw seldom failed to spend a 
part of the summer and autumn at Ashestiel, as 
long as Scott remained there, and during these visits 
they often gave a wider scope to their expeditions. 
'Indeed,' says Mr. Skene, 'there are few scenes at 
all celebrated either in the history, tradition, or 
romance of the Border counties, which we did not 
explore together in the cotirse of our rambles. We 
traversed the entire vales of the Yarrow and Ettrick, 
with all their sweet tributary glens, and never failed 
to find a hearty welcome from the farmers at whose 
houses we stopped, either for dinner or for the night. 
He was their chief-magistrate, extremely popular 
in that official capacity, and nothing could be more 
gratifying than the frank and hearty reception which 
everywhere greeted our arrival, however unexpected. 
— The exhilarating air of the mountains, and the 
healthy exercise of the day, secured our relishing 
homely fare, and we found inexhaustible entertain- 
ment in the varied display of character which the 
affability of the Sheriff^ drew forth on all occasions 
in genuine breadth and purity. The beauty of the 
scenery gave full employment to my pencil, with 
the free and frequent exercise of which he never 
seemed to feel impatient. He was at aU times 
ready and willing to alight when any object attracted 
230 



ASHESTIEL— MR. SKENE 

my notice, and used to seat himself beside me on 
the brae, to con over some ballad appropriate to 
the occasion, or narrate the tradition of the glen — 
sometimes, perhaps, to note a passing idea in his 
pocket-book; but this was rare, for in general he 
relied with confidence on the great storehouse of his 
memory. And much amusement we had, as you may 
suppose, in talking over the different incidents, con- 
versations, and traits of manners that had occurred 
at the last hospitable fireside where we had mingled 
with the natives. Thus the minutes glided away 
until my sketch was complete, and then we mounted 
again with fresh alacrity. 

' These excursions derived an additional zest from 
the uncertainty that often attended the issue of our 
proceedings ; for, following the game started by the 
dogs, our unfailing comrades, we frequently got 
entangled and bewildered among the hills, until 
we had to trust to mere chance for the lodging of 
the night. Adventures of this sort were quite to 
his taste, and the more for the perplexities which on 
such occasions befell our attendant squires — mine a 
lanky Savoyard, his a portly Scotch butler — both of 
them uncommonly bad horsemen, and both equally 
sensitive about their personal dignity, which the 
ruggedness of the ground often made it a matter of 
some difficulty for either of them to maintain, but 
more especially for my poor foreigner, whose seat re- 
sembled that of a pair of compasses astride. Scott's 
heavy lumbering beaiiffhtier had provided himself 
against the mountain showers with a huge cloak, 
which, when the cavalcade were at gallop, streamed 

231 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

at full stretch from his shoulders, and kept flapping 
in the other's face, who, having more than enough 
to do in preserving his own equilibrium, could not 
think of attempting at any time to control the pace 
of his steed, and had no relief but fuming and pesting 
at the sacre manteau, in language happily unin- 
telligible to its wearer. Now and then some ditch or 
turf-fence rendered it indispensable to adventure on 
a leap, and no farce could have been more amusing 
than the display of politeness which then occurred 
between these worthy equestrians, each courteously 
dechning in favour of his friend the honour of the 
first experiment, the horses fretting impatient be- 
neath them, and the dogs clamouring encourage- 
ment. The horses generally terminated the dispute 
by renouncing allegiance, and springing forward 
without waiting the pleasure of the riders, who had 
to settle the matter with their saddles as they best 
coulA 

' One of our earliest expeditions was to visit the 
wild scenery of the mountainous tract above Moffat, 
including the cascade of the Grey Mare's Tail, and 
the dark tarn called Loch Skene. In our ascent 
to the lake we got completely bewildered in the 
thick fog which generally envelopes the rugged 
featiu-es of that lonely region ; and, as we were 
groping through the maze of bogs, the ground gave 
way, and down went horse and horsemen pell-mell 
into a slough of peaty mud and black water, out of 
which, entangled as we were with otu* plaids and 
floundering nags, it was no easy matter to get ex- 
tricated. Indeed, unless we had prudently left our 
232 



ASHESTIEL— MR. SKENE 

gallant steeds at a faimhouse below, and borrowed 
hill ponies for the occasion, the result might have 
been worse than laughable. As it was, we rose 
like the spirits of the bog, covered cap-a-pie with 
slime, to free themselves from which, our wily ponies 
took to rolling about on the heather, and we had 
nothing for it but following their example. At 
length, as we approached the gloomy loch, a huge 
eagle heaved himself from the margin and rose right 
over us, screaming his scorn of the intruders ; and 
altogether it would be impossible to picture any 
thing more desolately savage than the scene which 
opened, as if raised by enchantment on purpose to 
gratify the poet's eye; thick folds of fog rolling 
incessantly over the face of the inky waters, but 
rent asunder now in one direction, and then in 
another — so as to aiFord us a ghmpse of some pro- 
jecting rock or naked point of land, or island bearing 
a few scraggy stumps of pine — and then closing 
again in universal darkness upon the cheerless waste. 
Much of the scenery of Old Mortality was drawn 
from that day's ride. 

' It was also in the course of this excursion that 
we encountered that amusing personage introduced 
into Guy Mannering as " Tod Gabbie," though the 
appellation by which he was known in the neigh- 
bourhood was "Tod Willie." He was one of those 
itinerants who gain a subsistence among the moor- 
land farmers by relieving them of foxes, polecats, 
and the like depredators — a half-witted, stuttering, 
and most original creature. 

' Having explored all the wonders of MofFatdale, 

233 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

we turned ourselves towards Blockhouse Tower, to 
visit Scott's worthy acquaintances the Laidlaws, and 
reached it after a long and intricate ride, having 
been again led off our course by the greyhounds, 
who had been seduced by a strange dog that joined 
company, to engage in full pursuit upon the tract of 
what we presumed to be either a fox or a roe-deer. 
The chase was protracted and perplexing, from the 
mist that skirted the hill tops ; but at length we 
reached the scene of slaughter, and were much dis- 
tressed to find that a stately old he-goat had been 
the victim. He seemed to have fought a stout 
battle for his life, but now lay mangled in the 
midst of his panting enemies, who betrayed, on our 
approach, strong consciousness of delinquency and 
apprehension of the lash, which was administered 
accordingly to soothe the manes of the luckless 
Capricorn — though, after all, the dogs were not 
so much to blame in mistaking his game flavour, 
since the fogs must have kept him out of view till 
the last moment. Our visit to Blackhouse was 
highly interesting; — ^the excellent old tenant being 
still in life, and the whole family group presenting 
a perfect picture of innocent and simple happiness, 
while the animated, intelligent, and original conver- 
sation of our friend William was quite charming. 

' Sir Adam Fergusson and the Ettrick Shepherd 
were of the party that explored Loch Skene and 
hunted the unfortunate he-goat. 

'I need not tell you that Saint Mary's Loch, 
and the Loch of the Lowes, were among the 
most favourite scenes of our excursions, as his 
234 



ASHESTIEL— MR. SKENE 

fondness for them continued to his last days, and we 
have both visited them many times together in his 
company. I may say the same of the Teviot and 
the Aill, Borthwick-water, and the lonely towers of 
Buccleuch and Harden, Minto, Roxburgh, Gilnockie, 
etc. I think it was either in 1805 or 1806 that 
I first explored the Borthwick with him, when on 
our way to pass a week at Langholm with Lord 
and Lady Dalkeith, upon which occasion the otter- 
hunt, so well described in Guy Mannering, was got 
up by om* noble host; and I can never forget the 
delight with which Scott observed the enthusiasm 
of the high-spirited yeomen, who had assembled 
in multitudes to partake the sport of their dear 
young chief, well mounted, and dashing about from 
rock to rock with a reckless ardour which recalled 
the alacrity of their forefathers in following the 
Buccleuchs of former days through adventures of a 
more serious order. 

' Whatever the banks of the Tweed, from its 
source to its termination, presented of interest, we 
frequently visited; and I do verily believe there is 
not a single ford in the whole course of that river 
which we have not traversed together. He had an 
amazing fondness for fords, and was not a little 
adventurous in plunging through, whatever might 
be the state of the flood, and this even though 
there happened to be a bridge in view. If it seemed 
possible to scramble through, he scorned to go ten 
yards about, and in fact preferred the ford ; and it is 
to be remarked, that most of the heroes of his tales 
seem to have been endued with similar propensities 

235 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

— even the White Lady of Avenel delights in the 
ford. He sometimes even attempted them on foot, 
though his lameness interfered considerably with 
his progress among the sUppery stones. Upon one 
occasion of this sort I was assisting him through 
the Ettrick, and we had both got upon the same 
tottering stone in the middle of the stream, when 
some story about a kelpie occurring to him, he must 
needs stop and tell it with aU his usual vivacity — 
and then laughing heartily at his own joke, he 
slipped his foot, or the stone shuffled beneath him, 
and down he went headlong into the pool, pulling 
me after him. We escaped, however, with no worse 
than a thorough drenching and the loss of his stick, 
which floated down the river, and he was as ready 
as ever for a similar exploit before his clothes were 
half dried upon his back.' 

About this time Mr. and Mrs. Scott made a short 
excursion to the Lakes of Cumberland and West- 
moreland, and visited some of their finest scenery, 
in company with Mr. Wordsworth. I have found 
no written narrative of this httle tour, but I have 
ofben heard Scott speak with enthusiastic delight of 
the reception he met with in the humble cottage 
which his brother poet then inhabited on the banks 
of Grasmere ; and at least one of the days they spent 
together was destined to furnish a theme for the 
verse of each, namely, that which they gave to the 
ascent of Helvellyn, where, in the course of the 
preceding jpring, a young gentleman having lost 
his way and perished by falling over a precipice, his 
remains were discovered, three months afterwards, 
236 



EXCURSION TO CUMBERLAND— 1805 

still watched by 'a faiithful terrier-bitch, his con- 
stant attendant during frequent rambles among the 
wilds.'* This day they were accompanied by an 
Illustrious philosopher, who was also a true poet — 
and might have been one of the greatest of poets 
had he chosen ; and I have heard Mr. Wordsworth 
say, that it would be difficult to express the feelings 
with which he, who so often had climbed Helvellyn 
alone, found himself standing on its summit with 
two such men as Scott and Davy. 

After leaving Mr. Wordsworth, Scott carried his 
wife to spend a few days at Gilsland, among the 
scenes where they had first met ; and his reception 
by the company at the wells was such as to make 
him look back with something of regret, as well as 
of satisfaction, to the change that had occurred in 
his circumstances since 1797. They were, however, 
enjoying themselves much there, when he received 
intelligence which induced him to believe that a 
French force was about to land in Scotland : — the 
alarm indeed had spread far and wide ; and a mighty 
gathering of volunteers, horse and foot, from the 
Lothians and the Border country, took place in con- 
sequence at Dalkeith. He was not slow to obey the 



* See notice prefixed to the song — 

' jl climbed the darlc brow of the mighty Helvellyn,' etc. 
in Scott's Poetical Works, edit. 1834^ vol. vi. p. 370 ; and compare the 

lines — 

' Inmate of a mountain dwelling, 

Thou hast clomb aloft, and gazed 
From the watch-towers of Helvellyn, 
Awed, delighted, and amazed,' etc. 

Wordsworth's Poetical Works, 8vo edit. vol. iii. p. 96. 

237 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

summons. He had luckily chosen to accompany on 
horseback the carriage in which Mrs. Scott travelled. 
His good steed carried him to the spot of rendezvous, 
fuU a hundred miles from Gilsland, within twenty- 
four hours ; and on reaching it, though, no doubt to 
his disappointment, the alarm had already blown 
over, he was delighted with the general enthusiasm 
that had thus been put to the test — and, above all, 
by the rapidity with which the yeomen of Ettrick 
forest had poured down from their glens, under the 
guidance of his good friend and neighbour, Mr. 
Pringle of Torwoodlee. These fine fellows were 
quartered along with the Edinburgh troop when he 
reached Dalkeith and Musselburgh ; and after some 
sham battling, and a few evenings of high jollity, 
had crowned the needless muster of the beacon 
fires,* he immediately turned his horse again towards 
the south, and rejoined Mrs. Scott at CarUsle. 

By the way, it was during his fiery ride fi*om 
Gilsland to Dalkeith, on the occasion above men- 
tioned, that he composed his Bard's Incantation, 
first published six years afterwards in the Edinburgh 
Annual Register : — 

' The forest of Glenmore is drear. 
It is all of black pine and the dark oak tree/ etc. 

and the verses bear the full stamp of the feelings of 
the moment. 

Shortly after he was re-established at Ashestiel, 
he was visited there by Mr. Southey; this being. 



* See Note ' Alarm of Invasion,' Antiquary, vol. vL p. 340. 
238 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

I believe, their first meeting. It is alluded to in 
the following letter — a letter highly characteristic in 
more respects than one : — 

' To George Ellis, Esq., Sunninghill. 

' Ashestiel, 17th October 1805. 

« Dear Ellis, 

'More than a month has glided away in this 
busy solitude, and yet I have never sat down to 
answer your kind letter. I have only to plead a 
horror of pen and ink with which this country, in 
fine weather (and ours has been most beautiful) 
regularly affects me. In recompense, I ride, walk, 
fish, course, eat and drink, with might and main from 
morning to night. I could have wished sincerely 
you had come to Reged this year to partake her 
rural amusements; — the only comfort I have is, 
that your visit would have been over, and now I 
look forward to it as to a pleasure to come. I shall 
be infinitely obliged to you for your advice and 
assistance in the course of Dryden. I fear little can 
be procured for a Life beyond what Malone has 
compiled, but certainly his facts may be rather 
better told and arranged. I am at present busy 
with the dramatic department. This undertaking 
will make my being in London in spring a matter 
of absolute necessity. 

' And now let me tell you of a discovery which 
I have made, or rather which Robert Jameson has 
made, in cop5dng the MS. of " True Thomas and 
the Queen of Elfland," in the Lincoln cathedral. 
The queen at parting, bestows the gifts of harping 

239 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and carping upon the prophet, and mark his 
reply— 

" To harp and carp, Tomas, where so ever ye gen — 
Thomas take thou these with thee." — 

" Harping," he said, " ken I nane^ 
For Tong is chefe of mynstrelsie." 

If poor Ritson could contradict his own system of 
materialism by rising from the grave to peep into 
this MS., he would slink back again in dudgeon and 
dismay. There certainly cannot be more respect- 
able testimony than that of True Thomas, and you 
see he describes the tongue, or recitation, as the 
principal, or at least the most dignified, part of a 
minstrel's profession. 

' Another curiosity was brought here a few days 
ago by Mr. Southey the poet, who favoured me with 
a visit on his way to Edinburgh. It was a MS. con- 
taining sundry metrical romances, and other poetical 
compositions, in the northern dialect, apparently 
written about the middle of the 15th century. I had 
not time to make an analysis of its contents, but 
some of them seem highly valuable. There is a tale 
of Sir Gowther, said to be a Breton Lay, which 
partly resembles the history of Robert the Devil, the 
hero being begot in the same way ; and partly that 
of Robert of Sicily, the penance imposed on Sir 
Gowther being the same, as he kept table with the 
hounds, and was discovered by a dumb lady to be 
the stranger knight who had assisted her father the 
emperor in his wars. There is also a MS. of Sir 
Isanbras ; item a poem called Sir Amadas — not 
Amadis of Gaul, but a courteous knight, who, being 
240 




>«f \ ' 'i^ 



/, ,'.>■ 



MUNGO PARK, 

AFTER H.EDRIDGE.-flHA. 



ASHESTIEL— 1805 

reduced to poverty, travels to conceal his distress, 
and gives the wreck of his fortune to purchase the 
rites of burial for a deceased knight, who had been 
refused them by the obduracy of his creditors. The 
rest of the story is the same with that of Jean de 
Calais, in the Biblioth^que Bleue, and with a vulgar 
ballad called the Factor's Garland. Moreover there 
is a merry tale of hunting a hare, as performed by a 
set of country clowns, with their mastiffs, and curs 
with "short legs and never a tail." The disgraces 
and blunders of these ignorant sportsmen must have 
afforded infinite mirth at the table of a feudal baron, 
prizing himself on his knowledge of the mysteries of 
the chase performed by these unauthorized intruders. 
There is also a burlesque sermon, which informs us 
of Peter and Adam journejdng together to Babylon, 
and how Peter asked Adam a full great doubtful 
question, saying, " Adam, Adam, why didst thou eat 
the apple unpared ? " This book belongs to a lady. 
I would have given something valuable to have had 
a week of it. Southey commissioned me to say that 
he intended to take extracts from it, and should be 
happy to copy, or cause to be copied, any part that 
you might wish to be possessed of; an offer which 
I heartily recommend to your early consideration. 
Where dwelleth Heber the magnificent, whose library 
and cellar * are so superior to all others in the world? 
I wish to write to him about Dryden. Any word 
lately from Jamaica ? Yovirs truly, W. S.' 



* Ellis had mentioned, in a recent letter, Heber's buying wines to the 
value of £1100 at some sale he happened to attend this autumn. 
2 — Q 241 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Mr. Ellis, in his answer, says — ' Heber will, I dare 
say, be of service to you in your present undertaking, 
if indeed you want any assistance, which I very 
much doubt ; because it appears to me that the best 
edition which could now be ^ven of Dryden, would 
be one -which should unite accuracy of text and 
a handsome appearance, with good critical notes. 
Quoad Malone, — I should think Ritson himself, 
could he rise from the dead, would be puzzled to sift 
out a single additional anecdote of the poet's life ; 
but to abridge Malone, — and to render his narrative 
terse, elegant, and intelligible, — ^would be a great 
obhgation conferred on the purchasers (I wUl not 
say the readers, because I have doubts whether they 
exist in the plural number) of his very laborious 
compilation. The late Dr. Warton, you may have 
heard, had a project of editing Dryden a la Hurd ; 
that is to say, upon the same principle as the 
castrated edition of Cowley. His reason was, that 
Dryden, having vmtten for bread, became of neces- 
sity a most voluminous author, and poured forth 
more nonsense of indecency, particularly in his 
theatrical compositions, than almost any scribbler in 
that scribbling age. Hence, although his transcen- 
dent genius frequently breaks out, and marks the 
hand of the master, his comedies seem, by a tacit 
but general consent, to have been condemned to 
oblivion; and his tragedies, being printed in such 
bad company, have shared the same fate. But 
Dr. W. conceived that, by a judicious selection of 
these, together with his fables and prose works, it 
would be possible to exhibit him in a much more 
242 



DRYDEN— 1805 

advantageous light than by a republication of the 
whole mass of his writings. Whether the Doctor 
(who, by the way, was by no means scrupulously 
chaste and dehcate, as you will be aware from his 
edition of Pope) had taken a just view of the subject, 
you know better than I ; but I must own that the 
announcement of a general edition of Dryden gave 
me some little alarm. However, if you can suggest 
the sort of assistance you are desirous of receiving, 
I shall be happy to do what I can to promote 
your views. . . . And so you are not disposed to 
nibhle at the bait I throw out! Nothing but 'a 
decent edition of Holinshed ' ? I confess that my 
project chiefly related to the later historical works 
respecting this country — to the union of Gall, 
Twisden, Camden, Leibnitz, etc. etc., leaving the 
Chronicles, properly so called, to shift for them- 
selves. ... I am ignorant when you are to 
be in Edinburgh, and in that ignorance have not 
desired Blackburn, who is now at Glasgow, to call 
on you. He has the best practical understanding 
I have ever met with, and I vouch that you would 
be much pleased with his acquaintance. And so for 
the present God bless you. G. E.' 

Scott's letter in reply opens thus : — ' I will not 
castrate John Dryden. I would as soon castrate 
my own father, as I believe Jupiter did of yore. 
What would you say to any man who would 
castrate Shakspeare, or Massinger, or Beaumont 
and Fletcher ? I don't say but that it may be very 
proper to select correct passages for the use of 

243 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

boarding schools and colleges, being sensible no 
improper ideas can be suggested in these seminaries, 
unless they are intruded or smuggled under the 
beards and ruffs of our old dramatists. But in 
making an edition of a man of genius's works for 
libraries and collections, and such I conceive a com- 
plete edition of Dryden to be, I must give my 
author as I find him, and wiU not tear out the page, 
even to get rid of the blot, little as I like it. Are 
not the pages of Swift, and even of Pope, larded 
with indecency, and often of the most disgusting 
kind, and do we not see them upon all shelves 
and dressing-tables, and in all boudoirs? Is not 
Prior the most indecent of tale tellers, not even 
excepting La Fontaine, and how often do we see his 
works in female hands ? In fact, it is not passages 
of ludicrous indelicacy that corrupt the manners of 
a people — it is the sonnets which a prurient genius 
like Master Little sings virginihus puerisque — ^it is 
the sentimental slang, half lewd, half methodistic, 
that debauches the understanding, inflames the sleep- 
ing passions, and prepares the reader to give way as 
soon as a tempter appears. At the same time, I am 
not at all happy when I peruse some of Dryden's 
comedies : they are very stupid, as well as indelicate; 
sometimes, however, there is a considerable vein of 
liveliness and humour, and all of them present extra- 
ordinary pictures of the age in which he lived. My 
critical notes will not be very numerous, but I hope 
to illustrate the political poems, as Absalom and 
Achitophel, the Hind and Panther, etc., with some 
curious annotations. I have already made a com- 
244 



DRYDEN— 1805 

plete search among some hundred pamphlets of that 
pamphlet-writing age, and with considerable success, 
as I have found several which throw light on my 
author. I am told that I am to be formidably 
opposed by Mr. Crowe, the Professor of Poetry 
at Oxford, who is also threatening an edition of 
Dryden. I don't know whether to be most vexed 
that some one had not undertaken the task sooner, 
or that Mr. Crowe is disposed to attempt it at the 
same time with me; — however, I now stand com- 
mitted, and will not be crowed over, if I can help it. 
The third edition of the Lay is now in the press, 
of which I hope you will accept a copy, as it 
contains some trifling improvements or additions. 
They are, however, very trifling. 

'I have written a long letter to Rees, recom- 
mending an edition of our historians, both Latin 
and English ; but I have great hesitation whether 
to undertake much of it myself. What I can I 
certainly will do ; but I should feel particularly 
delighted if you would join forces with me, when 
I think we might do the business to purpose. Do, 
Lord love you, think of this grande opus. 

' I have not been so fortunate as to hear of Mr. 
Blackburn. I am afraid poor Daniel has been very 
idly employed — Ccelum non animum. I am glad 
you still retain the purpose of visiting Reged. If 
you live on mutton and game, we can feast you ; for, 
as one wittUy said, I am not the hare with many 
friends, but the friend with many hares. — W.S.' 

Mr. Ellis, in his next letter, says — ' I will not 

245 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

disturb you by contesting any part of your ingenious 
apology for your intended complete edition of Dryden, 
whose genius I venerate as much as you do, and 
whose negligences, as he was not rich enough to 
doom them to oblivion in his own lifetime, it is 
perhaps incumbent on his editor to transmit to the 
latest posterity. Most certainly I am not so squeam- 
ish as to quarrel with him for his immodesty on 
any moral pretence Licentiousness in writing, 
when accompanied by wit, as in the case of Prior, 
La Fontaine, etc., is never likely to excite any 
passion, because every passion is serious ; and the 
grave epistle of Eloisa is more likely to do moral 
mischief and convey infection to love-sick damsels, 
than five hundred stories of Hans Carvel and Paulo 
Purgante; but whatever is in point of expression 
vulgar — whatever disgusts the taste — whatever might 
have been written by any fool, and is therefore 
unworthy of Dryden — ^whatever might have been 
suppressed, without exciting a moment's regret in 
the mind of any of his admirers — ought, in my 
opinion, to be suppressed by any editor who should 
be disposed to make an appeal to the public taste 
upon the subject ; because a man who was perhaps 
the best poet and best prose writer in the language 

but it is foolish to say so much, after promising 

to say nothing. Indeed I own myself guilty of 
possessing all his works in a very indifferent edition, 
and I shall certainly purchase a better one when- 
ever you put it in my power. With regard to 
your competitors, I feel perfectly at my ease, because 
I am convinced that though you should generously 
246 



DRYDEN— 1805 

fiimish them with all the materials, they would not 
know how to use them : non cuivis homini con- 
tingit to write critical notes that any one will read.' 
Alluding to the regret which Scott had expressed 
some time before at the shortness of his visit to the 
libraries of Oxford, EUis says, in another of these 
letters : — • A hbrary is like a butcher's shop : it 
contains plenty of meat, but it is all raw ; no person 
living (Leyden's breakfast was only a tour de force 
to astonish Ritson, and I except the Abyssinians, 
whom I never saw) can find a meal in it, till some 
good cook (suppose yourself) comes in and says, 
" Sir, I see by your looks that you are hungry ; I 
know your taste — be patient for a moment, and 
you shall be satisfied that you have an excellent 
appetite." ' 

I shall not transcribe the mass of letters which 
Scott received fi-om various other literary friends 
whose assistance he invoked in the preparation of 
his edition of Dryden ; but among them there occurs 
one so admirable, that I cannot refuse myself the 
pleasure of introducing it, more especially as the 
views which it opens harmonize as remarkably with 
some, as they differ from others, of those which Scott 
himself ultimately expressed respecting the poetical 
character of his illustrious author : — 



' Patterdale, Nov. 7, 1805. 

' My Dear Scott, 

'. . . I was much pleased to hear of your 
engagement with Dryden : not that he is, as a poet, 
any great favourite of mine : I admire his talents 

247 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and genius highly, but his is not a poetical genius. 
The only qualities I can find in Dryden that are 
essentially poetical, are a certain ardour and impetu- 
osity of mind, with an excelleiit ear. It may seem 
strange that I do not add to this, great command 
of language : That he certainly has, and of such 
language, too, as it is most desirable that a poet 
should possess, or rather that he should not be 
without. But it is not language that is, in the 
highest sense of the word, poetical, being neither 
of the imagination nor of the passions ; I mean the 
amiable, the ennobling, or the intense passions. I 
do not mean to say that there is nothing of this in 
Dryden, but as little, I think, as is possible, con- 
sidering how much he has written. You wiU easily 
understand my meaning, when I refer to his versi- 
fication of Pfdamon and Arcite, as contrasted with 
the language of Chaucer. Dryden had neither a 
tender heart nor a lofty sense of moral dignity. 
Whenever his language is poetically impassioned, it 
is mostly upon unpleasing subjects, such as the 
foUies, vices, and crimes of classes of men or of 
individuals. That his cannot be the language of 
imagination, must have necessarily followed from 
this, — ^that there is not a single image from natin^e 
in the whole body of his works ; and in his transla- 
tion from Virgil, wherever Virgil can be fairly said 
to have his eye upon his object, Dryden always 
spoils the passage. 

' But too much of this ; I am glad that you are 
to be his editor. His political and satirical pieces 
may be greatly benefited by illustration, and even 
248 



DRYDEN— 1805 

absolutely require it. A correct text is the first 
object of an editor — then such notes as explain 
difficult or obscure passages; and lastly, which is 
much less important, notes pointing out authors to 
whom the poet has been indebted, not in the fiddling 
way of phrase here and phrase there — (which is 
detestable as a general practice) — but where he 
has had essential obligations either as to matter or 
manner. 

' If I can be of any use to you, do not fail to 
apply to me. One thing I may take the liberty to 
suggest, which is, when you come to the fables, 
might it not be advisable to print the whole of the 
tales of Boccace in a smaller type in the original 
language ? If this should look too much Uke swelling 
a book, I should certainly make such extracts as 
would show where Dryden has most strikingly im- 
proved upon, or fallen below, his original. I think 
his translations from Boccace are the best, at least 
the most poetical, of his poems. It is many years 
since I saw Boccace, but I remember that Sigis- 
munda is not married by him to Guiscard — (the 
names are different in Boccace in both tales, I 
believe — certainly in Theodore, etc.). I think 
Dryden has much injured the story by the marriage, 
and degraded Sigismunda's character by it. He has 
also, to the best of my remembrance, degraded her 
still more by making her love absolute sensuality 
and appetite ; Dryden had no other notion of the 
passion. With all these defects, and they are very 
gross ones, it is a noble poem. Guiscard's answer, 
when first reproached by Tancred, is noble in Boccace 

249 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

—nothing but this : Amor pud molto piii che ne voi 
ne io possiamo. This, Dryden has spoiled. He 
says first very well, "the faults of love by love 
are justified," and then come four lines of miserable 
rant, quite h la Maanmin. Farewell, and believe 
me ever your affectionate friend, 

William Wordsworth.' 



250 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 



CHAPTER XV 

Affair of the Clerkship of Session : Letters to Ellis 
and Lord Dalkeith : Visit to London : Earl 
Spencer and Mr. Fox: Caroline, Princess of 
Wales: Joanna Saillie: Appointment as Clerk 
of Session: Lord Melville's Trial: Song on his 
Acquittal. 

1806 

While the first volumes of his Dryden were passing 
through the press, the affair concerning the Clerkship 
of the Court of Session, opened nine or ten months 
before, had not been neglected by the friends on 
whose counsel and assistance Scott had relied. In 
one of his Prefaces of 1830, he briefly teUs the issue 
of this negotiation, which he justly describes as *an 
important circumstance in his life, of a nature to 
relieve him from the anxiety which he must other- 
wise have felt as one upon the precarious tenure of 
whose own life rested the principal prospects of his 
family, and especially as one who had necessarily 
some dependence on the proverbially capricious 
favour of the public' Whether Mr. Pitt's hint to 
Mr. William Dundas, that he would willingly find an 

251 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

opportunity to promote the interests of the author 
of the Lay, or some conversation between the Duke 
of Buccleuch and Lord Melville, first encouraged 
him to this direction of his views, I am not able to 
state distinctly ; but I believe that the desire to see 
his fortunes placed on some more substantial basis, 
was at this time partaken pretty equally by the 
three persons who had the principal influence in 
the distribution of the crown patronage in Scot- 
land ; and as his object was rather to secure a future 
than an immediate increase of official income, it 
was comparatively easy to make such an arrange- 
ment as would satisfy his ambition. George Home 
of Wedderburn, in Berwickshire, a gentleman of 
considerable literary acquirements, and an old friend 
of Scott's family, had now served as Clerk of Session 
for upwards of thirty years. In those days there 
was no system of retiring pensions for the worn- 
out functionary of this class, and the usual method 
was, either that he should resign in favour of a 
successor who advanced a sum of money according 
to the circumstances of his age and health, or for a 
coadjutor to be associated with him in his patent, 
who undertook the duty on condition of a division 
of salary. Scott offered to relieve Mr. Home of 
all the labours of his office, and to allow him, 
nevertheless, to retain its emoluments entire during 
his lifetime ; and the aged clerk of course joined 
his exertions to procure a conjoint-patent on these 
very advantageous terms. Mr. Home resigned, and 
a new patent was drawn out accordingly ; but, by 
a clerical inadvertency, it was drawn out solely in 
252 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 

Scott's favour, no mention of Mr. Home being 
inserted in the instrument. Although, therefore, 
the sign-manual had been affixed, and there re- 
mained nothing but to pay the fees and take out 
the commission, Scott, on discovering this error, 
could not of course proceed in the business ; since, 
in the event of his dying before Mr. Home, that 
gentleman would have lost the vested interest which 
he had stipulated to retain. A pending charge of 
pecuniary corruption had compelled Lord MelviUe 
to retire from office some time before Mr. Pitt's 
death ; and the cloud of popular obloquy under which 
he now laboured, rendered it impossible that Scott 
should expect assistance from the quarter to which, 
under any other circumstances, he would naturally 
have turned for extrication from this difficulty. He 
therefore, as soon as the Fox and GrenviUe Cabinet 
had been nominated, proceeded to London, to make 
in his own person such representations as might be 
necessary to secure the issuing of the patent in the 
right shape. 

It seems wonderful that he should ever have 
doubted for a single moment of the result; since, 
had the new Cabinet been purely Whig, and had he 
been the most violent and obnoxious of Tory par- 
tisans, neither of which was the case, the arrangement 
had been not only virtually, but, with the exception 
of an evident official blunder, formally completed ; 
and no Secretary of State, as I must think, could 
have refiised to rectify the paltry mistake in question, 
without a dereliction of every principle of honour. 
The seals of the Home Office had been placed in 

253 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the hands of a nobleman of the highest character — 
moreover, an ardent lover of literature ; — while the 
chief of the new Ministry was one of the most 
generous as well as tasteful of mankind ; and accord- 
ingly, when the circumstances were explained, there 
occurred no hesitation whatever on their parts. ' I 
had,' says Scott, 'the honour of an interview with 
Earl Spencer, and he in the most handsome manner 
gave directions that the commission should issue as 
originally intended ; adding that, the matter having 
received the royal assent, he regarded only as a claim 
of justice what he would wiUingly have done as an 
act of favour.' He adds — ' I never saw Mr. Fox on 
this or any other occasion, and never made any apph- 
cation to him, conceiving, that in doing so, I might 
have been supposed to express pohtical opinions 
diffofent from those which I had always professed. 
In his private capacity, there is no man to whom I 
would have been more proud to owe an obligation — 
had I been so distinguished.' * 

In January, 1806, however, Scott had by no 
means measured either the character, the feelings, or 
the arrangements of great public functionaries, by 
the standard with which observation and experience 
subsequently furnished him. He had breathed 
hitherto, as far as political questions of all sorts were 
concerned, the hot atmosphere of a very narrow scene 
— and seems to have pictured to himself Whitehall 
and Downing Street as only a wider stage for the 
exhibition of the bitter and fanatical prejudices 



* Introduction to Marmion, 1830. 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 

that tormented the petty circles of the Parliament 
House at Edinburgh ; the true bearing and scope of 
which no man in after days more thoroughly under- 
stood, or more sincerely pitied. The variation of 
his feelings while his business still remained undeter- 
mined, will, however, be best collected from the 
correspondence about to be quoted. It was, more- 
over, when these letters were written, that he was 
tasting for the first time, the full cup of fashionable 
blandishment as a London Lion ; nor will the reader 
fail to observe how deeply, while he supposed his 
own most important worldly, interests to be in peril 
on the one hand, and was surrounded with so many 
captivating flatteries on the other, he continued to 
sympathize with the misfortunes of his early friend 
and patron, now hurled from power, and subjected 
to a series of degrading persecutions, from the con- 
sequences of which that lofty spirit was never entirely 
to recover. 

' To George Ellis, Esq., Sunninghill. 

'Edinburgh, January 25th, 1806. 

' My Dear EUis, 

' I have been too long in letting you hear of me, 
and my present letter is going to be a very selfish 
one, since it will be chiefly occupied by an affair 
of my own, in which, probably, you may find very 
little entertainment. I rely, however, upon your 
cordial good wishes and good advice, though, per- 
haps, you may be unable to afford me any direct 
assistance without more trouble than I would wish 
you to take on my accoimt. You must know, then, 

255 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

that with a view of withdrawing entirely from the 
Bar, I had entered into a transaction with an elderly 
and infirm gentleman, Mr. George Home, to he 
associated with him in the office which he holds as 
one of the Principal Clerks to our Supreme Court 
of Session; I being to discharge the duty gratui- 
tously during his life, and to succeed him at his 
decease. This could only be carried into effect by 
a new commission from the crown to him and me 
jointly, which has been issued in similar cases very 
lately, and is in point of form quite correct. By the 
interest of my kind and noble friend and chief, the 
Duke of Buccleuch, the countenance of Government 
was obtained to this arrangement, and the affair, as 
I have every reason to believe, is now in the Treasury. 
I have written to my solicitor, Alexander Mundell, 
Fludyer Street, to use every despatch in hurrying 
through the commission; but the news of to-day 
giving us every reason to apprehend Pitt's death, 
if that lamentable event has not already happened,* 
makes me get nervous on a subject so interesting to 
my little fortune. My political sentiments have 
been always constitutional and open, and although 
they were never rancorous, yet I cannot expect that 
the Scottish Opposition party, should circumstances 
bring them into power, would consider me as an 
object of favour : nor would I ask it at their hands. 
Their leaders cannot regard me with malevolence, 
for I am intimate with many of them; but they 
must provide for the Whiggish children before they 



* Mr. Pitt died January 23d, two days before this letter was written. 
256 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 

throw their bread to the Tory dogs ; and I shall not 
fawn on them because they have in their turn the 
superintendence of the larder. At the same time, 
if Fox's friends come into power, it must be with 
Windham's party, to whom my politics can be no 
exception, — if the politics of a private individual 
ought at any time to be made the excuse for inter- 
cepting the boimty of his Sovereign, when it is in 
the very course of laeing bestowed. 

'The situation is most desirable, being £800 a- 
year, besides being consistent with holding my 
sheriffdom ; and I could afford very well to wait till 
it opened to me by the death of my colleague, 
without wishing a most worthy and respectable man 
to die a moment sooner than ripe nature demanded. 
The duty consists in a few hours' labour in the 
forenoons when the Court sits, leaving the evenings 
and whole vacation open for literary pursuits. I wiU 
not relinquish the hope of such an establishment 
without an effort, if it is possible without dereliction 
of my principles to attain the accomplishment of it. 
As I have suffered in my professional line by addict- 
ing myself to the profane and unproj&table art of 
poem-making, I am very desirous to indemnify 
myself by availing myself of any prepossession which 
my literary reputation may, however unmeritedly, 
have created in my favour. I have found it useful 
when I applied for others, and I see no reason 
why I should not try if it can do any thing for 
myself. 

'Perhaps, after all, my commission may be got 
out before a change of Ministry, if such an event 

2 R 257 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

shall take place, as it seems not far distant. If it 
is otherwise, will you be so good as to think and 
devise some mode in which my case may be stated 
to Windham or Lord Grenville, supposing them to 
come in ? If it is not deemed worthy of attention, 
I am sure I shall be contented ; but it is one thing 
to have a right to ask a favour, and another to 
hope that a transaction, already fully completed by 
the private parties, and approved of by an existing 
Administration, shall be permitted to take effect in 
favour of an unoffending individual. I believe I 
shall see you very shortly, unless I hear from 
Mundell that the business can be done for certain 
without my coming up. I will not, if I can help it, 
be flayed hke a sheep for the benefit of some 
pettifogging lawyer or attorney. I have stated the 
matter to you very bluntly; indeed, I am not asking 
a favour, but, unless my self-partiality blinds me, 
merely fair play. Yours ever, 

Walter Scott.' 

' To Walter Scott, Esq., Edinburgh. 

'Bath, 6th February 1806. 

' My Dear Scott, 

'You must have seen by the lists of the new 
Ministry already published in all the papers, that, 
although the death of our excellent Minister has 
been certainly a most vmfortunate event, in as far 
as it must tend to delay the object of your present 
wishes, there is no cause for your alarm on account 
of the change, excepting as far as that change is 

258 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 

very extensive, and thus, perhaps much time may 
elapse before the business of every kind which was 
in arrears can be expedited by the new Administra- 
tion. There is no change of principle (as far as we 
can yet judge) in the new Cabinet — or rather the 
new Cabinet has no general political creed. Lord 
Grenville, Fox, Lord Lansdowne, and Addington 
were the four nominal heads of four distinct parties, 
which must now by some chemical process be amal- 
gamated ; all must forget, if they can, their peculiar 
habits and opinions, and unite in the pursuit of a 
common object. How far this is possible, time will 
show ; to what degree this motley Ministry can, by 
their joint influence, command a majority in the 
House of Commons ; how far they wUl, as a whole, 
be assisted by the secret influence and power of the 
Crown ; whether, if not so seconded, they will be 
able to appeal some time hence to the people, and 
dissolve the Parliament — all these and many other 
questions, will receive very different answers from 
different speculators. But in the mean time it is 
self-evident, that every individual will be extremely 
jealous of the patronage of his individual depart- 
ment; that individually as well as conjointly, they 
will be cautious of provoking enmity ; and that a 
measure patronized by the Duke of Buccleuch is 
not very likely to be opposed by any member of 
such a Cabinet. 

' If, indeed, the object of your wishes were a 
sinecure, and at the disposal of the Chancellor 
(Erskine), or of the President of the Board of 
Control (Lord Minto), you might have strong cause, 

259 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

perhaps, for apprehension ; but what you ask would 
suit few candidates, and there probably is not one 
whom the Cabinet, or any person in it, would feel 
any strong interest in obliging to your disadvan- 
tage. But farther, we know that Lord Sidmouth is 
in the Cabinet, so is Lord EUenborough, and these 
two are notoriously the King's Ministers. Now we 
may be very sure that they, or some other of the 
King's friends, will possess one department, which 
has no name, but is not the less real ; namely, the 
supervision of the King's influence both here and in 
Scotland. I therefore much doubt whether there 
is any man in the Cabinet who, as Minister, has it 
in his power to prevent your attainment of your 
object. Lord Melville, we know, was in a great 
measure the representative of the King's personal 
influence in Scotland, and I am by no means sure 
that he is no longer so; but be that as it may, it 
win, I am well persuaded, continue in the hands of 
some one who has not been forced upon his Majesty 
as one of his confidential servants. 

' Upon the whole, then, the only consolation that 
I can confidently give you is, that what you repre- 
sent as a principal difficulty is quite imaginary, and 
that your OAvn political principles are exactly those 
which are most likely to be serviceable to you. I 
need not say how happy Anne and myself would be 
to see you (we shall spend the month of March in 
London), nor that, if you should be able to point out 
any means by which I can be of the slightest use 
in advancing your interests, you may employ me 
without reserve. I must go to the Pump-room for 
260 



CLERKSHIP OF SESSION 

my glass of water — so God bless you. Ever truly 
yours, G. Ellis.' 



' To George Ellis, Esq., Bath. 

'London, Feb. 9,0, 1806. 

' My Dear Ellis, 

' I have your kind letter, and am infinitely 
obliged to you for your solicitude in my behalf. I 
have indeed been rather fortunate, for the gale which 
has shattered so many goodly argosies, has blown 
my little bark into the creek for which she was 
bound, and left me only to lament the misfortunes 
of my friends. To vary the simile, while the huge 
frigates, the Moira and Lauderdale, were fiercely 
combating for the dominion of the Caledonian main, 
I was fortunate enough to get on board the good 
ship Spencer, and leave them to settle their disputes 
at leisure. It is said to be a violent ground of con- 
troversy in the new Ministry, which of those two 
noble lords is to be St. Andrew for Scotland. I 
own I tremble for the consequences of so violent a 
temper as Lauderdale's, irritated by long-disappointed 
ambition and ancient feud with aU his brother nobles. 
It is a certain truth that Lord Moira insists upon 
his claim, backed by all the friends of the late 
Administration in Scotland, to have a^ certain weight 
in that country; and it is equally certain that the 
Hamiltons and Lauderdales have struck out. So 
here are people who have stood in the rain without 
doors for so many years, quarrelling for the nearest 
place to the fire, as soon as they have set their feet 

261 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

on the floor. Lord Moira, as he always has been, 
was highly kind and courteous to me on this occa- 
sion. 

' Heber is just come in, with your letter waving 
in his hand. I am ashamed of all the trouble I have 
given you, and at the same time flattered to find 
your friendship even equal to that greatest and most 
disagreeable of all trials, the task of solicitation. 
Mrs. Scott is not with me, and I am truly concerned 
to think we should be so near, without the prospect 
of meeting. Truth is, I had half a mind to make 
a run up to Bath, merely to break the spell which 
has prevented our meeting for these two years. But 
Bindley,* the collector, has lent me a parcel of 
books, which he insists on my consulting within 
the liberties of Westminster, and which I cannot 
find elsewhere, so that the fortnight I propose to 
stay wiU be fully occupied by examination and 
extracting. How long I may be detained here 
is very uncertain, but I wish to leave London on 
Saturday se'ennight. Should I be so delayed as 
to bring my time of departure any thing near that 
of your arrival, I will stretch my furlough to the 
utmost, that I may have a chance of seeing you. 
Nothing is minded here but domestic politics, and 
if we are not clean swept, there is no want of new 
brooms to perform that operation. I have heard 



* James Bindley, Esq., famed for his rich accumulation of books, 
prints, and medals, held the office of a commissioner of Stamps during 
the long period of S3 years. He died in 1818, in his 81st year. At 
the sale of his library a collection of penny ballads, etc., in 8 volumes, 
produced £837. 
262 



LONDON— FEBRUARY 1806 

very bad news of Leyden's health since my arrival 
here — such, indeed, as to give room to apprehend 
the very worst. I fear he has neglected the pre- 
cautions which the climate renders necessary, and 
which no man departs from with impunity. Re- 
member me kindly and respectfully to Mrs. Ellis; 
and believe me ever yours faithfully, 

Walter Scott.' 

'P.S. — Poor Lord Melville! how does he look? 
We have had miserable accounts of his health in 
London. He was the architect of my little fortune, 
from circumstances of personal regard merely ; for 
any of my trifling literary acquisitions were out 
of his way. My heart bleeds when I think on 
his situation — 

" Even when the rage of battle ceased, 
The victor's soul was not appeased." ' * 



♦ To the Earl of Dalkeith. 

'London, llth Feb. 1806. 

* My Dear Lord, 

'I cannot help flattering myself — for perhaps 
it is flattering myself — that the noble architect of 
the Border Minstrel's little fortune has been some- 
times anxious for the security of that lowly edifice, 
during the tempest which has overturned so many 
palaces and towers. If I am right in my supposi- 



* These lines are froin Smollett's Tears of Scotland. 

263 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

tion, it will give you pleasure to learn that, not- 
withstanding some little rubs, I have been able to 
carry through the transaction which your Lordship 
sanctioned by your influence and approbation, and 
that in a way very pleasing to my own feelings. 
Lord Spencer, upon the nature of the transaction 
being explained in an audience with which he 
favoured me, was pleased to direct the commission 
to be issued, as an act of justice, regretting, he said, 
it had not been from the beginning his own deed. 
This was doing the thing handsomely, and like an 
English nobleman. I have been very much feted 
and caressed here, almost indeed to suffocation, but 
have been made amends by meeting some old 
friends. One of the kindest was Lord SomerviUe, 
who volunteered introducing me to Lord Spencer, 
as much, I am convinced, from respect to your 
Lordship's protection and wishes, as from a desire 
to serve me personally. He seemed very anxious 
to do any thing in his power which might evince a 
wish to be of use to your prot^gd. Lord Minto 
was also infinitely kind and active, and his influence 
with Lord Spencer would, I am convinced, have 
been stretched to the utmost in my favour, had 
not Lord Spencer's own view of the subject been 
perfectly sufficient. 

'After aU, a little literary reputation is of some 
use here. I suppose Solomon, when he compared a 
good name to a pot of ointment, meant that it oiled 
the hinges of the hall-doors into which the possessors 
of that inestimable treasure wished to penetrate. 
What a good name was in Jerusalem, a Tcnown name 
264 



LONDON— FEBRUARY 1806 

seems to be in London. If you are celebrated for 
writing verses or for slicing cucumbers, for being two 
feet taller or two feet less than any other biped, for 
acting plays when you should be whipped at school, 
or for attending schools and institutions when you 
should be preparing for your grave, your notoriety 
becomes a talisman — an "Open Sesame" before 
which every thing gives way — till you are voted 
a bore, and discarded for a new plaything. As 
this is a consummation of notoriety which I am 
by no means ambitious of experiencing, I hope I 
shall be very soon able to shape my course 
northward, to enjoy my good fortune at my 
leisure, and snap my fingers at the Bar and all its 
works. 

'There is, it is beheved, a rude scuffle betwixt 
our late commander-in-chief and Lord Lauderdale, 
for the patronage of Scotland. If there is to be an 
exclusive administration, I hope it will not be in 
the hands of the latter. Indeed, when one considers, 
that by means of Lords Sidmouth and EUenborough, 
the King possesses the actual power of casting the 
balance betwixt the five Grenvillites and four Foxites 
who compose the Cabinet, I cannot think they will 
find it an easy matter to force upon his Majesty 
any one to whom he has a personal dislike. I should 
therefore suppose that the disposal of St. Andrew's 
Cross will be delayed tUl the new Ministry is a little 
consolidated, if that time shall ever come. There 
is much loose gunpowder amongst them, and one 
spark would make a fine explosion. Pardon these 
political effusions ; I am infected by the atmosphere 

265 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

which I breathe, and cannot restrain my pen from 
discussing state affairs. I hope the young ladies 
and my dear little chief are now recovering from 
the hooping-cough, if it has so turned out to be. 
If I can do any thing for any of the family here, 
you know your right to command, and the pleasure 
it will afford me to obey. WiU your Lordship be 
so kind as to acquaint the Duke, with every grateful 
and respectful acknowledgment on my part, that I 
have this day got my commission from the Secretary's 
office? I dine to-day at Holland-house; I refused 
to go before, lest it should be thought I was solicit- 
ing interest in that quarter, as I abhor even the 
shadow of changing or turning with the tide. 

' I am ever, with grateful acknowledgment, your 
Lordship's much indebted, faithful humble servant, 

' Walter Scott.' 



' To George Ellis, Esq. 

'London, Saturday, March 3, 1806. 

' My Dear Ellis, 

' I have waited in vain for the happy dissolu- 
tion of the spell which has kept us asunder at a 
distance less by one quarter than in general divides 
us; and since I am finally obUged to depart for 
the north to-morrow, I have only to comfort myself 
with the hope that Bladud will infuse a double in- 
fluence into his tepid springs, and that you will feel 
emboldened, by the quantity of reinforcement which 
the radical heat shall have received, to undertake 
your expedition to the tramontane region of Reged 

266 



LONDON— MARCH 1806 

this season. My time has been spent very gaily 
here, and I should have liked very well to have 
remained tiU you came up to town, had it not been 
for the wife and bairns at home, whom I confess I am 
now anxious to see. Accordingly I set off early to- 
morrow morning — indeed I expected to have done so 
to-day, but my companion, Ballantyne, our Scottish 
Bodoni, was afflicted with a violent diarrhoea, which, 
though his physician assured him it would serve his 
health in general, would certainly have contributed 
little to his accomplishments as an agreeable com- 
panion in a post-chaise, which are otherwise very 
respectable. 1 own Lord Melville's misfortunes 
affect me deeply. He, at least his nephew, was my 
early patron, and gave me countenance and assistance 
when I had but few friends. I have seen when the 
streets of Edinburgh were thought by the inhabitants 
almost too vulgar for Lord Melville to walk upon ; 
and now I fear that, with his power and influence 
gone, his presence would be accounted by many, 
from whom he has deserved other thoughts, an 
embarrassment, if not something worse. All this is 
very vile — it is one of the occasions when Provi- 
dence, as it were, industriously turns the tapestry, 
to let us see the ragged ends of the worsted which 
compose its most beautifiil figures, God grant your 
prophecies may be true, which I fear are rather 
dictated by your kind heart than your experience 
of political enmities and the fate of fallen statesmen. 
Kindest compliments to Mrs. EUis. Your next wUl 
find me in Edinburgh. Walter Scott.' 

267 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

« To George Ellis, Esq. 

' Ashestiel, April 7, 1806. 

« My Dear ElUs, 

' Were I to begin by telling you all the regret 
I had at not finding you in London, and at being 
obliged to leave it before your return, this very 
handsome sheet of paper, which I intend to cover 
with more important and interesting matters, would 
be entirely occupied by such a Jeremiade as could 
only be equalled by Jeremiah himself. I wiU there- 
fore waive that subject, only assuring you that I 
hope to be in London next spring, but have much 
warmer hopes of seeing you here in summer. I 
hope Bath has been of service; if not so much as 
you expected, try easy exercise in a northward 
direction, and make proof of the virtues of the 
Tweed and Yarrow. We have been here these two 
days, and I have been quite rejoiced to find all my 
dogs, and horses, and sheep, and cows, and two 
cottages fuU of peasants and their children, and aU 
my other stock, human and animal, in great good 
health — we want nothing but Mrs. EUis and you to 
be the strangers within our gates, and our establish- 
ment would be complete on the patriarchal plan. I 
took possession of my new office on my return. The 
duty is very simple, consisting chiefly in signing my 
name ; and as I have five colleagues, I am not 
obliged to do duty except in turn, so my task is a 
very easy one, as my name is very short. 

' My principal companion in this solitude is John 
Dryden. After all, there are some passages in his 
268 



ASHESTIEL— APRIL 1806 

translations from Ovid and Juvenal that vs^ill hardly 
bear reprinting, unless I would have the Bishop of 
London * and the whole corps of Methodists about 
my ears. I wish you would look at the passages I 
mean. One is from the fourth book of Lucretius ; 
the other from Ovid's Instructions to his Mistress. 
They are not only double-entendres, but good plain 
single-entendres — not only broad, but long, and as 
coarse as the mainsail of a first-rate. What to make 
of them I know not ; but I fear that, without abso- 
lutely gelding the bard, it wiU be indispensable to 
circumcise him a httle by leaving out some of the 
most obnoxious hnes. Do, pray, look at the poems 
and decide for me. Have you seen my friend Tom 
Thomson, who is just now in London ? He has, I 
believe, the advantage of knowing you, and I hope 
you will meet, as he understands more of old books, 
old laws, and old history, than any man in Scotland. 
He has lately received an appointment under the 
Lord Register of Scotland, which puts all our 
records under his immediate inspection and control, 
and I expect many valuable discoveries to be the 
consequence of his investigation, if he escapes being 
smothered in the cloud of dust which his researches 
will certainly raise about his ears. I sent your card 
instantly to Jeifrey, from whom you had doubtless 
a suitable answer, f I saw the venerable economist 



* Dr. Porteous. 

t Mr. Ellis had written to Mr. Jeffrey, through Scott, proposing to 
draw up an article for the Edinburgh Review on the Annals of Commerce, 
then recently published by Mr. David Macpherson. 

269 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

and antiquary, Macpherson, when in London, and 
was quite delighted with the simplicity and kindness 
of his manners. He is exactly like one of the old 
Scotchmen whom I remember twenty years ago, 
before so close a union had taken place between 
Edinburgh and London. The mail-coach and the 
Berwick smacks have done more than the Union in 
altering our national character, sometimes for the 
better and sometimes for the worse. 

' I met with your friend, Mr. Canning, in town, 
and claimed his acquaintance as a friend of yours, 
and had my claim allowed; also Mr. Frere, — ^both 
delightful companions, far too good for politics, and 
for winning and losing places. When I say I was 
more pleased with their society than I thought had 
been possible on so short an acquaintance, I pay 
them a very trifling compliment and myself a very 
great one. I had also the honour of dining with a 
fair friend of yours at Blackheath, an honour which 
I shaU very long remember. She is an enchanting 
princess, who dwells in an enchanted palace, and I 
cannot help thinking that her prince must labour 
under some malignant spell when he denies himself 
her society. The very Prince of the Black Isles, 
whose bottom was marble, would have made an 
effort to transport himself to Montague House. 
From all this you will understand I was at Mon- 
tague House. 

' I am quite dehghted at the interest you take in 

poor Lord Melville. I suppose they are determined 

to hunt him down. Indeed, the result of his trial 

must be ruin from the expense, even supposing him 

270 



CAROLINE, PRINCESS OF WALES— 1806 

to be honourably acquitted. Will you, when you 
have time to write, let me know how that matter is 
likely to turn? I am deeply interested in it; and 
the reports here are so various, that one knows not 
what to trust to. Even the common rumour of 
London is generally more authentic than the " from 
good authority " of Edinburgh. Besides, I am now 
in the wilds (alas ! I cannot say woods and wilds), 
and hear little of what passes. Charlotte joins me 
in a thousand kind remembrances to Mrs. Ellis ; and 
I am ever yours most truly, Walter Scott.' 

I shall not dwell at present upon Scott's method 
of conduct in the circumstances of an eminently 
popular author beleaguered by the importunities of 
fashionable admirers : his bearing when first exposed 
to such influences was exactly what it was to the 
end, and I shall have occasion in the sequel to 
produce the evidence of more than one deliberate 
observer. 

CaroUne, Princess of Wales, was in those days 
considered among the Tories, whose pohtics her 
husband had uniformly opposed, as the victim of 
unmerited misfortime, cast aside, from the mere 
wantonness of caprice, by a gay and dissolute vo- 
luptuary; while the Prince's Whig associates had 
espoused his quarrel, and were already, as the event 
showed, prepared to act, publicly as well as privately, 
as if they believed her to be among the most aban- 
doned of her sex. I know not by whom Scott was 
first introduced to her little Court at Blackheath; 
but I think it was probably through Mrs. Hayman, 

271 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

a lady of her bedchamber, several of whose notes 
and letters occur about this time in the collection 
of his correspondence. The careless levity of the 
Princess's manner was observed by him, as I have 
heard him say, with much regret, as likely to bring 
the purity of heart and mind, for which he gave 
her credit, into suspicion. For example, when, in 
the course of the evening, she conducted him by 
himself to admire some flowers in a conservatory, 
and, the place being rather dark, his lameness occa- 
sioned him to hesitate for a moment in following 
her down some steps which she had taken at a skip, 
she turned round, and said, with mock indigna- 
tion — ' Ah ! false and faint-hearted troubadour ! you 
will not trust yourself with me for fear of your 
neck ! ' 

I find from one of Mrs. Hayman's letters, that on 
being asked, at Montague House, to recite some 
verses of his own, he replied that he had none 
unpublished which he thought worthy of her Royal 
Highness's attention, but introduced a short accoimt 
of the Ettrick Shepherd, and repeated one of the 
ballads of the Mountain Bard, for which he was 
then endeavouring to procure subscribers. The 
Princess appears to have been interested by the 
story, and she affected, at all events, to be pleased 
with the lines ; she desired that her name might be 
placed on the Shepherd's list, and thus he had at 
least one gleam of royal patronage. 

It was during the same visit to London that Scott 
first saw Joanna Baillie, of whose Plays on the 
Passions he had been, from their first appearance, 
272 




MATTHEW GREGOHT LEWIS. 

PAINTED BYHWPICKERSGILL R A, 



JOANNA BAILLIE 

an enthusiastic admirer. The late Mr. Sotheby, the 
translator of Oberon, etc. etc., was the friend who 
introduced him to the poetess of Hampstead. Being 
asked very lately what impression he made upon her 
at this interview — 'I was at first,' she answered, 
' a little disappointed, for I was fresh from the Lay, 
and had pictured to myself an ideal elegance and 
refinement of feature ; but I said to myself. If I had 
been in a crowd, and at a loss what to do, I should 
have fixed upon that face among a thousand, as the 
sure index of the benevolence and the shrewdness 
that would and coidd help me in my strait. We 
had not talked long, however, before I saw in the 
expressive play of his countenance far more even 
of elegance and refinement than I had missed in 
its mere lines.' The acquaintance thus begun, soon 
ripened into a most affectionate intimacy between 
him and this remarkable woman ; and thenceforth 
she and her distinguished brother. Dr. Matthew 
BaiUie, were among the friends to whose intercourse 
he looked forward with the greatest pleasure when 
about to visit the metropolis. 

I ought to have mentioned before, that he had 
known Mr. Sotheby at a very early period of Ufe, that 
amiable and excellent man having been stationed for 
some time at Edinburgh while serving his Majesty 
as a captain of dragoons. Scott ever retained for him 
a sincere regard; he was always, when in London, 
a frequent guest at his hospitable board, and owed 
to him the personal acquaintance of not a few of 
their most eminent contemporaries in various de- 
partments of Uterature and art. 

2 S 273 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

When the Court opened after the spring recess, 
Scott entered upon his new duties as one of the 
Principal Clerks of Session ; and as he continued to 
discharge them with exemplary regularity, and to the 
entire satisfaction both of the Judges and the Bar, 
during the long period of twenty-five years, I think 
it proper to tell precisely in what they consisted, 
the more so because, in his letter to EUis of the 25th 
January, he has himself (characteristically enough) 
understated them. 

The Court of Session sits at Edinburgh from the 
12th of May to the 12th of July, and again from 
the 12th of November, with a short interval at 
Christmas, to the 12th of March. The Judges of 
the Inner Court took their places on the Bench, in 
his time, every morning not later than ten o'clock, 
and remained according to the amount of business 
ready for despatch, but seldom for less than four or 
more than six hours daily ; during which space the 
Principal Clerks continued seated at a table below 
the Bench to watch the progress of the suits, and 
record the decisions — the cases, of aU classes, being 
equally apportioned among their number. The Court 
of Session, however, does not sit on Monday, that day 
being reserved for the criminal business of the High 
Court of Justiciary ; and there is also another blank 
day every other week, — ^the Tdnd Wednesday, as 
it is called, when the Judges are assembled for the 
hearing of tithe questions, which belong to a separate 
jurisdiction, of comparatively modern creation, and 
having its own separate estabUshment of officers. 
On the whole, then, Scott's attendance in Court may 
274 



CLERK OF SESSION 

be taken to have amounted, on the average, to from 
four to six hours daily during rather less than six 
months out of the twelve. 

Not a little of the Clerk's business in Court is 
merely formal, and indeed mechanical; but there 
are few days in which he is not called upon for 
the exertion of his higher faculties, in reducing the 
decisions of the Bench, orally pronounced, to technical 
shape; which, in a new, complex, or difficult case, 
cannot be satisfactorily done without close attention 
to all the previous proceedings and written docu- 
ments, an accurate understanding of the principles 
or precedents on which it has been determined, and a 
thorough command of the whole vocabulary of legal 
forms. Dull or indolent men, promoted through the 
mere wantonness of political patronage, might, no 
doubt, contrive to devolve the harder part of their 
duty upon humbler assistants; but, in general, the 
office had been held by gentlemen of high character 
and attainments ; and more than one among Scott's 
own colleagues enjoyed the reputation of legal 
science that would have done honour to the Bench. 
Such men, of course, prided themselves on doing 
well whatever it was their proper function to do; 
and it was by their example, not that of the drones 
who condescended to lean upon unseen and irre- 
sponsible inferiors, that Scott uniformly modelled 
his own conduct as a Clerk of Session. To do 
this, required, of necessity, constant study of law- 
papers and authorities at home. There was also 
a great deal of reaUy base drudgery, such as the 
authenticating of registered deeds, by signature, 

275 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

which he had to go through out of Court ; he had, 
too, a Shrievalty, though not a heavy one, all the 
while upon his hands ; — and, on the whole, it forms 
one of the most remarkable features in his history, 
that, throughout the most active period of his 
literary career, he must have devoted a large pro- 
portion of his hours, during half at least of every 
year, to the conscientious discharge of professional 
duties. 

Henceforth, then, when in Edinburgh, his literary 
work was performed chiefly before breakfast ; with 
the assistance of such evening hours as he could 
contrive to rescue from the consideration of Court 
papers, and from those social engagements in which, 
year after year, as his celebrity advanced, he was of 
necessity more and more largely involved ; and of 
those entire days during which the Court of Session 
did not sit — days which, by most of those holding 
the same official station, were given to relaxation 
and amusement. So long as he continued quarter- 
master of the Volunteer Cavalry, of course he had, 
even while in Edinburgh, some occasional horse 
exercise ; but, in general, his town life henceforth 
was in that respect as iaactive as his country life 
ever was the reverse. He scorned for a long while 
to attach any consequence to this complete alterna- 
tion of habits ; but we shall find him confessing in 
the sequel, that it proved highly injurious to his 
bodily health. 

I may here observe, that the duties of his clerkship 
brought him into close daily connexion with a set 
of gentlemen, most of whom were soon regarded by 
276 



CLERK OF SESSION 

him with the most cordial affection and confidence. 
One of his new colleagues was David Hume (the 
nephew of the historian) whose lectures on the Law 
of Scotland are characterised with just eulogy in the 
Ashestiel Memoir, and who subsequently became a 
Baron of the Exchequer; a man as virtuous and 
amiable, as conspicuous for masculine vigour of 
intellect and variety of knowledge.* Another was 
Hector Macdonald Buchanan of Drummakiln, a 
frank-hearted and generous gentleman, not the less 
acceptable to Scott for the Highland prejudices 
which he inherited with the high blood of Clan- 
ranald; at whose beautiful seat of Ross Priory, on 
the shores of Lochlomond, he was henceforth almost 
annually a visitor — a circumstance which has left 
many traces in the Waverley Novels. A third 
(though I believe of later appointment) with whom 
his intimacy was not less strict, was the late ex- 
cellent Sir Robert Dundas of Beechwood, Bart. ; and 
a fourth was the friend of his boyhood, one of the 
dearest he ever had, Colin Mackenzie of Portmore. 
With these gentlemen's families, he and his hved 
in such constant familiarity of kindness, that the 
children all called their fathers' colleagues uncles, 
and the mothers of their little friends aunts \ and 
in truth, the establishment was a brotherhood. 

Scott's nomination as Clerk of Session appeared in 



* Mr. Baron Hume died at Edinburgh, 27th July 1838, in his 82d 
year. I had great gratification in receiving a message from the venerable 
man shortly before his death, conveying his warm approbation of these 
Memoirs of his friend.— [1839.] 

277 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

the same Gazette (March 8, 1806) which announced 
the instalment of the Hon. Henry Erskine and John 
Clerk of Eldin as Lord Advocate and SoUcitor 
General for Scotland. The promotion at such a 
moment, of a distinguished Tory, might well excite 
the wonder of the Parliament House, and even 
when the circumstances were explained, the inferior 
local adherents of the triumphant cause were far 
from considering the conduct of their superiors in 
this matter with feelings of satisfaction. The indi- 
cation of such humours was deeply resented by 
his haughty spirit; and he in his turn showed his 
irritation in a manner weU calculated to extend to 
higher quarters the spleen with which his advance- 
ment had been regarded by persons whoUy unworthy 
of his attention. In short, it was almost immediately 
after a Whig ministry had gazetted his appointment 
to an office which had for twelve months formed 
a principal object of his ambition, that, rebelling 
against the implied suspicion of his having accepted 
something like a personal obligation at the hands of 
adverse politicians, he for the fixst time put himself 
forward as a decided Tory partisan. 

The impeachment of Lord Melville was among 
the first measures of the new Government ; and 
personal affection and gratitude graced as weU as 
heightened the zeal with which Scott watched the 
issue of this, in his eyes, vindictive proceeding ; but, 
though the ex-minister's ultimate acquittal was, as 
to all the charges involving his personal honour, 
complete, it must now be allowed that the investi- 
gation brought out many circumstances by no means 
278 



LORD MELVILLE'S ACQUITTAL 

creditable to his discretion ; and the rejoicings of his 
friends ought not, therefore, to have been scornfully 
jubilant. Such they were, however — at least in 
Edinburgh; and Scott took his share in them by 
inditing a song, which was sung by James BaUan- 
tyne, and received with clamorous applauses, at a 
public dinner given in honour of the event on the 
27th of June 1806. I regret that this piece was 
inadvertently omitted in the late collective edition 
of his poetical works ; but since such is the case, I 
consider myself bound to insert it here. However 
he may have regretted it afterwards, he authorized 
its publication in the newspapers of the time, and 
my narrative would fail to convey a complete view 
of the man, if I should draw a veil over the ex- 
pression, thus deliberate, of some of the strongest 
personal feelings that ever animated his verse.* 



* The reader may tui-n to this song in the later Editions of Scott's 
Poetical Works. Mr. W. Savage Landor, a man of great learning and 
great abilities, has in a recent collective edition of his writings repro- 
duced many uncharitable judgments on distinguished contemporaries, 
which the reflection of advanced life might have been expected to cancel. 
Sir Walter Scott has his full share in these, but he suffers in good 
company. I must, however, notice the distinct assertion (vol. i. p. 339), 
that Scott 'composed and sung a triumphal song on the death of a 
minister whom, in his lifetime, he had flattered, and who was just in 
his coffin when the minstrel sang the fosc is run to earth. Constable of 
Edinburgh heard him, and related the fact to Curran, who expressed his 
incredulity with great vehemence, and his abhorrence was greater than 
his incredulity.' The only possible foundation on which this story can 
have been built is the occurrence in one stanza of the song mentioned 
in my text of the words Tally-ho to the fox. That song was written and 
sung in June 1806. Mr. Fox was then minister, and died in September 
1806. The lines which Mr. Landor speaks of as 'flattering Fox during 
his Ufetime,' are very celebrated lines : they appeared in the epistle 

279 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

HEALTH TO LORD MELVILLE 
Air — Canickfergus 

' Since here we are set in array round the table, 
Five hundred good fellows well met in a hall, 
Come listen, brave boys, and I '11 sing as I 'm able 
How innocence triumphed and pride got a fall. 
But push round the claret — 
Come, stewards, don't spare it — 
With rapture you '11 drink to the toast that I give : 
Here, boys, 
Oif with it merrily — 
Melville for ever, and long may he live ! 

What were the Whigs doing, when boldly pursuing, 

Pitt banished Rebellion, gave Treason a string ? 
Why, they swore on their honour, for Arthur O'Connor, 
And fought hard for Despard against country and king. 

Well, then, we knew, boys, 

Pitt and Melville were true boys, 
And the tempest was raised by the friends of Reform. 

Ah, wo ! 

Weep to his memory ; 
Low lies the pilot that weathered the storm ! 



prefixed to the iirst canto of Marmion, which was published in February 
1808, and their subject is the juxtaposition of the tombs of Pitt and Fox 
in Westminster Abbey. Everybody who knew Scott knows that he 
never sang a song in his life ; and if that had not been notorious, who 
but Mr. Landor could have heard without ' incredulity ' that he sang a 
triumphal song on the death of Fox in the presence of the publisher of 
Marmion and proprietor of the Edinburgh Review ! I may add, though 
it is needless, that Constable's son-in-law and partner, Mr. Cadell, 
' never heard of such a song as that described by Mr. Landor.' — ^Abr. 
Ed. 1848. 
280 



LORD MELVILLE'S ACQUITTAL 

And pray, don't you mind when the Blues first were raising, 

And we scarcely could think the house safe o'er our heads ? 
When villains and coxcombs, French politics praising. 
Drove peace from our tables and sleep from our beds ? 

Our hearts they grew bolder 

When musket on shoulder, 
Stepp'd forth our old Statesmen example to give. 

Come, boys, never fear. 

Drink the Blue grenadier — 
Here 's to old Harry, and long may he live ! 

They would turn us adrift ; though rely, sir, upon it — 

Our own faithful chronicles warrant us that 
The free mountaineer and his bonny blue bonnet 
Have oft gone as far as the regular's hat. 

We laugh at their taunting. 

For all we are wanting 
Is licence our life for our country to give. 

Off with it merrily, 

Horse, foot, and artillery. 
Each loyal Volunteer, long may he live ! 

'Tis not us alone, boys — ^the Army and Navy 

Have each got a slap 'mid their politic pranks ; 
CoRNWALLis cashier'd, that watched winters to save ye. 
And the Cape called a bauble, unworthy of thanks. 

But vain is their taunt. 

No soldier shall want 
The thanks that his country to valour can give : 

Come, boys. 

Drink it off merrily, — 
Sir David and Popham, and long may they live ! 

And then our revenue — Lord knows how they viewed it 

While each petty statesman talked lofty and big ; 
But the beer-tax was weak, as if Whitbread had brewed it, 
And the pig-iron duty a shame to a pig. 
In vain is their vaunting. 
Too surely there 's wanting 

281 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

What judgment, experience, and steadiness give ; 

Come, boys. 

Drink about merrily, — 
Health to sage Melville, and long may he live ! 



Our King, too — our Princess — I dare not say more, sir, — 

May providence watch them with mercy and might ! 
While there 's one Scottish hand that can wag a claymore, sir. 
They shall ne'er want a friend to stand up for their right. 

Be damn'd he that dare not, — 

For my part, I '11 spare not 
To beauty afflicted a tribute to give : 

Fill it up steadily. 

Drink it off readily — 
Here 's to the Princess, and long may she live ! 

And since we must not set Auld Reikie in glory. 

And make her brown visage as light as her heart ; * 
Till each man illumine his own upper story. 
Nor law-book nor lawyer shall force us to part. 

In Grenville and Spencer, 

And some few good men, sir. 
High talents we honour, slight difference forgive ; 

But the Brewer we '11 hoax, 

Tallyho to the Fox, 
And drink Melville for ever, as long as we live ! ' 



This song gave great offence to the many sincere 
personal friends whom Scott numbered among the 
upper ranks of the Whigs ; and, in particular, it 
created a marked coldness towards him on the part 



* The Magistrates of Edinburgh had rejected an application for 
illumination of the town, on the arrival of the news of Lord Melville's 
acquittal. 
282 



POLITICS— 1806 

of the accomplished and amiable Countess of Rosslyn 
(a very intimate friend of his favourite patroness, 
Lady Dalkeith), which, as his letters show, wounded 
his feelings severely, — the more so, I have no doubt, 
because a little reflection must have made him 
repent not a few of its allusions. He was consoled, 
however, by abundant testimonies of Tory appro- 
bation; and, among others, by the following note 
from Mr. Canning : — 

' To Walter Scott, Esq., Edinburgh. 

• London, July 14, 1806. 

' Dear Sir, 

' I should not think it necessary to trouble you 
with a direct acknowledgment of the very acceptable 
present which you were so good as to send me 
through Mr. William Rose, if I had not happened to 
hear that some of those persons who could not indeed 
be expected to be pleased with your composition, 
have thought proper to be very loud and petulant 
in the expression of their disapprobation. Those, 
therefore, who approve and are thankful for your 
exertions in a cause which they have much at heart, 
owe it to themselves, as well as to you, that the 
expressions of their gratitude and pleasure should 
reach you in as direct a manner as possible. I hope 
that, in the course of next year, you are likely to 
afford your friends in this part of the world an 
opportunity of repeating these expressions to you in 
person ; and I have the honour to be. Dear Sir, with 
great truth, your very sincere and obedient servant, 

George Canning.' 
283 



LIFE OF SIR WALTER SCOTT 

Scott's Tory feelings appear to have been kept in 
a very excited state during the whole of this short 
reign of the Whigs. He then, for the first time, 
mingled keenly in the details of county politics, — 
canvassed electors — harangued meetings; and, in a 
word, made himself conspicuous as a leading instru- 
ment of his party — more especially as an indefatig- 
able local manager, wherever the parliamentary 
interest of the Buccleuch family was in peril. But 
he was, in truth, earnest and serious in his belief 
that the new rulers of the country were disposed to 
aboHsh many of its most valuable institutions ; and 
he regarded with special jealousy certain schemes of 
innovation with respect to the courts of law and the 
administration of justice, which were set on foot by 
the Crown Officers for Scotland. At a debate of the 
Faculty of Advocates on some of these propositions, 
he made a speech much longer than any he had 
ever before delivered in that assembly ; and several 
who heard it have assured me, that it had a flow 
and energy of eloquence for which those who knew 
him best had been quite unprepared. When the 
meeting broke up, he walked across the Mound, on 
his way to Castle Street, between Mr. Jeffrey and 
another of his reforming friends, who complimented 
him on the rhetorical powers he had been displaying, 
and would willingly have treated the subject-matter 
of the discussion playfully. But his feelings had 
been moved to an extent far beyond their appre- 
hension: he exclaimed, 'No, no — 'tis no laughing 
matter; little by Uttle, whatever your wishes may 
be, you will destroy and undermine, until nothing 
284 



POLITICS— 1806 

of what makes Scotland Scotland shall remain.' 
And so saying, he turned round to conceal his agi- 
tation — but not until Mr. Jeffrey saw tears gushing 
down his cheek — cresting his head until he recovered 
himself on the wall of the Mound. Seldom, if ever, 
in his more advanced age, did any feelings obtain 
such mastery. 



END OF VOL. II. 



Printed by T. and A. Constable, Oate) Printers to Her Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press